The tragic legal battle between legendary radio host Casey Kasem’s wife and children over his end-of-life care is a teachable moment for his millions of fans, according to the nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization, Compassion & Choices.
“This sad story vividly illustrates that we all need to prepare for our inevitable demise before the crisis stage so our caregivers don’t experience this kind of conflict,” said Compassion & Choices Medical Director Dr. Judy Neall Epstein, N.D. “Unfortunately, completing an advance directive alone, as Casey did, isn’t enough. You also need to discuss your advance directive with all your immediate family members, and ensure that they all understand and accept your end-of-life wishes that are expressed in it.”
A judge Wednesday upheld Casey Kasem’s advance directive to stop providing nutrition and hydration to him, as his children wanted. The decision reversed the same judge’s order on Monday to continue feeding and hydrating the 82-year-old Kasem at the request of his wife.
“Stopping eating and drinking, as Casey is doing, permits the dying process to proceed naturally,” said Epstein. “With palliative support, which he is receiving, this option does not cause suffering and enables the patient to experience a peaceful death.”
Reports from hospice nurses who cared for patients who voluntarily stopped eating and drinking indicate they usually die a “good” death within one to two weeks after forgoing all food and fluids, according to a 2003 survey published by The New England Journal of Medicine.
Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. Leading the end-of-life choice movement for more than 30 years, we support, educate and advocate.
Compassion & Choices is also a collaborator in the The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment, a growing coalition of 20 organizations whose goal is to ensure that consumers are empowered and have access to a full range of well-coordinated medical care and treatment. These options include curative care, palliative care and hospice care, and improving the quality of discussions between patients and healthcare professionals about advanced and terminal illness and end-of-life decisions. More information is available at www.endumt.org.