Casey Kasem: A Legend Dies a Sad Death

June 17, 2014 09:00 AM

Casey Kasem, a man described by his peers as a legend, created classic rock’s “American Top 40” and remained on the air as a disc jockey for 50 years. His illustrious career reflected the life of a man who, according to one reporter, truly cared about his work, the people who faithfully listened to him, and the ordinary things of life—all of which made him incredibly likeable, even though he was surrounded by obvious wealth.

Kasem died at the age of 82 after a lengthy illness. But the way he died was not at all reflective of that charismatic joy that defined him.

Kasem died of starvation. His death “was sealed by a judge’s order that allows his daughter to withhold medication, food, and fluids from her ailing father. Kasem’s wife . . . fought the withholding of these essential elements, but the judge’s order” upheld the wishes of Kasem’s daughter Kerri. A judge had ruled on May 12 that she was the temporary conservator for her father’s healthcare decisions—a position that was to be reviewed again at a later time. That was when Kasem began receiving “end-of-life measures,” including medication, food, and fluids. These are the measures Kerri Kasem was then authorized to withdraw on June 11. 

It was that court decision that resulted in Kasem’s starvation death, though his daughter claimed that, in Kasem’s case, 

Giving food and water to a dying body creates pain and further suffering. The body does not want or require food or water anymore in the dying process. My father can no longer digest foods and fluids fill his lungs up and will suffocate him. My Dad IS on pain meds.

We do not know the basis for Kerri’s statement, but we do know the end result—the death of her father.

In cases like this, where starvation occurs, and is the cause of death, Bobby Schindler’s opinion among others is pertinent. Schindler knows what he is talking about. Lest we forget that his sister, Terri Schiavo, suffered the same type of death Casey Kasem did even though her family fought valiantly to save her life. He commented:

According to reports, Kasem is stricken with dementia and Parkinson’s; typically, treatable conditions. Once Kasem begins the process of dying by having his food and water removed, he will endure a death that no family member should ever have to witness. It is cruel and barbaric and could take days, and often weeks to play itself out, torturing not only the patient, but those who love him as well. In stark contrast, St. John Paul II who also had Parkinson’s, was afforded a feeding tube as part of his end of life care, and subsequently died naturally.

The one truth that is missing from public view in high profile cases like Kasem’s is that the artificial provision of nutrition and hydration should be viewed in most cases as part of comfort care for a patient, even when that patient is dying. 

Saint John Paul II pointed this out in March 2004, writing, “The moral principle is well known, according to which even the simple doubt of being in the presence of a living person already imposes the obligation of full respect and of abstaining from any act that aims at anticipating the person’s death.”

We cannot know why the decision to withdraw care was made. But, at this hour of grief for the family and friends Casey Kasem left behind, we pray for their peace of mind and for the happy repose of the soul of this beloved man.

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