ICBioethics Blog 

Who Decides Course of Treatment on Behalf of Country Singer Glen Campbell?

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

Sadly I read that Glen Campbell’s wife and two of the eight children cannot agree on his care in an Alzheimer facility. Associated Press reports his children submitted a petition for a judge to appoint a conservator and guardian to protect Campbell’s interests, and they allege that his wife keeps him isolated from family, which is affecting his treatment and care.

So what is to be done?  Because of privacy, we don’t have access to the medical details of this case.  We don’t know if there is an official power of attorney or what specific treatment and care is of concern.  We do know Tennessee’s laws regarding surrogate decision making where Campbell resides.

Tennessee Health Care Decisions Act outlines the hierarchy for healthcare agents: a surrogate appointed by a capable patient, a guardian, patient’s spouse (unless legally separated), patient’s adult children, patient’s adult siblings, any other adult relation of the patient, or any other adult who satisfies the requirements (i. e., someone who can speak to patient’s known wishes or act in best interests of patient, had regular contact prior to and during the patient’s illness, demonstrates care, concern, and availability for face-to-face contact with healthcare professionals).

Campbell has a large family, and we don’t know who is willing and able to participate in his care — just one of the myriad of details for the court to consider.  While it is easy to have an opinion as an outsider, I remind myself that ethical issues of capacity, competency, surrogate decision making, treatment goals and preferences are not easily understood or remedied.  I sincerely hope that the ethics consultation service at the facility is enlisted to help resolve this family matter!

Ironic to consider: known for his great voice, who will be Glen Campbell’s voice now?

Mitch Gennuso