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No one should be denied the right to be at a loved one’s side at the end of life

Posted Sept. 25, 2016, at 10:57 a.m.
People all over the world know Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo, the beloved star of the hit detective show that aired in so many of ours homes throughout the 1970s and beyond.

Fewer know about the struggle of his daughter Catherine to be there for him at the end of his life. When Peter Falk became incapacitated by advanced Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer speak for himself, his spouse denied his children’s requests to see their ailing father or even learn about his condition.

Catherine Falk
With her father’s health in rapid decline, Catherine knew she had to take action in order to see her father. Because the law didn’t provide for the situation she found herself in, Catherine filed a petition in California probate court as a way to find out about his health and to be allowed to see him. She fought hard for her right to visit him, but it cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and immeasurable heartache.

Even so, members of Falk’s immediate family were needlessly prevented from visiting and information about his condition was kept from his loved ones at the end of his life. The legal process Catherine pursued allowed her to see her father before he passed away, but it did not — and was never intended to — fully address the situation her family faced.

Catherine started the Catherine Falk Organization, which worked with the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, or NASGA, to draft legislation ensuring individuals can be visited by family members or other loved ones. At present, the guardian has unbridled discretion to stop visitation.

Their work together focused on a range of situations in which elders and disabled adults across the country are left vulnerable to the people with legal responsibility over their rights.

Marcia Southwick
When I met Catherine and Marcia Southwick of NASGA and learned of their work, I wanted to make sure Maine families are protected from experiencing such heartbreaking situations. Much of my work as a lawmaker has focused on improving life for aging and disabled Mainers, and sponsoring the Peter Falk bill should be part of that work.

I asked legislative leadership to allow lawmakers to consider an after-deadline bill so a solution could be considered as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Legislative Council did not allow the measure to move forward at that time.

Despite the setback, the measure has been resubmitted for consideration during the coming session. The problem is too serious and its impact on families too tragic to continue to remain unaddressed in Maine law.

The bill would ensure that close relatives such as children and siblings are informed of their loved one’s hospitalization or death. It also would allow legal recourse when immediate family members are wrongfully denied the right to see an ailing loved one.

We strongly believe that families should have somewhere to turn when they are needlessly barred from seeing a sick or incapacitated loved one. Just as importantly, those who cannot speak for themselves should not be isolated from the people who care about them.

In recent years, the importance of knowing the signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly and incapacitated has become more widely recognized. Preventing their isolation is a crucial step to protecting some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.

There are many devoted guardians who act in the best interest of the person they care for, but in some situations that isn’t the case. Passing the Falk bill here in Maine will help defend those who are falling through the cracks.

Catherine’s story began with her determination to see the father she loved with all her heart. Her experience and the stories of other families across the country have inspired us to advocate for measures that protect vulnerable citizens and their right to be surrounded by those they love. We and others in Maine are working hard to ensure that lawmakers pass the Falk bill this upcoming session.

Rep. Archie Verow
Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, is serving his second term in the Maine House. Catherine Falk, daughter of actor Peter Falk, is a nationwide advocate for laws that protect family members’ rights to visit ailing or incapacitated loved ones.

No one should be denied the right to be at a loved one’s side at the end of life

This post first appeared on National Association To Stop Guardian Abuse, please read the originial post: here

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No one should be denied the right to be at a loved one’s side at the end of life


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