|James Chism & daughter Susan Lucier|
James Chism died Oct. 24. He had owned and operated Chism Chiropractic in Fraser.
His health became a public issue beginning in December 2011 when three of his five adult children accused their father’s wife of 27 years at the time, Karen Chism, not their mother, of orchestrating efforts to accelerate his health problems and blocking their efforts to see him. He was diagnosed with dementia, taking prescription drugs and admitted to a mental hospital, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens, and later to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township after suffering a heart attack.
The children -- Steve Chism, Susan Lucier and Laurie Meagher -- protested publicly by picketing in front of the Mount Clemens facility and protesting on Facebook, creating the page, “Saving the lift of Army vet James F. Chism,” which has 1,526 members. They all resided out of state.
Karen Chism had gained guardianship over him in December 2011, and they accused her of moving assets and selling his practice at a low price.
A judge shortly thereafter stripped her of the guardianship and transferred it to an attorney, who was removed nine months later when the judge determined Chism could function on his own.
Steve Chism said this week that he remains “disgusted” with the state probate system that prevented them from having more involvement with their father.
He said since September 2012 when James Chism’s guardianship was removed, he and his siblings’ contact with their father continued to dissipate due to Karen Chism blocking their efforts. He said they barely had contact with him the past couple of years despite attempts to do so.
He maintains his belief that his father died prematurely.
“I knew he had at least 10 good years left in him,” he said this week.
He said he believes his father suffered from the effects of his treatment in 2011 and ‘12, and was not treated properly in recent years after the guardianship was lifted. He said he believes his father was over-medicated with prescription drugs, which he said is tragically ironic since James Chism kept himself in top-notch shape and believed in natural healing over prescription-drug use.
The obituary didn’t name his natural offspring, only saying he is survived by “five biological children.”
Steve Chism said he would like to see a law passed that mandates that adult children can visit their biological parent even if the parent’s spouse opposes it. A battle between the wife of the late Casey Kasem and his biological child brought national attention to the issue.
But Michele Fuller, a Sterling Heights elder-law attorney, said existing “laws and processes” with the probate court system in Michigan provide avenues for adult children to pursue visitation. She said children can petition a judge for a guardian to allow visitation or can seek to have a guardian replaced by a child or another attorney. If the parent does not have a guardian, the children can petition to be one or have one named.
Fuller, who operates the Michigan Law Center, noted that if there is estrangement between the parent and child, and the parent does not wish to see the children, it can be difficult to gain visitation.
Karen Chism said she looked out for the best interests of her husband and accused her husband’s children of lying, making disparaging remarks and threatening to take the couple’s assets. She said Steve Chism wrongly accused her of trying to murder her husband, and that she was interviewed by a Clinton Township police detective.
During the height of the dispute, Karen Chism in 2012 filed for a personal protection order against the three children, but a Macomb County Circuit Court judge denied it following a hearing in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.
She said it was not her but the children’s comments about her that turned her husband against them.
James Chism’s appointed attorney in 2012, Patricia Patterson-Courie, who advocated for his freedom from guardianship, said this week that when Chism gained independence, “He was upset with the way they (his children) treated his wife.”
“He was adamant, insisting he wanted to be home with his wife.”
Steve Chism said his father was influenced against them by Karen Chism.
Patterson-Courie said she did not wish to take sides in the case. She said she understood the children’s suspicions but didn’t find nefarious intent by Karen Chism.
“He had made such a miracle recovery from a near comatose state,” she said. “The circumstances looked strange. You can see why the children had suspicions and concerns, but none of that could be found.”
She said some of Karen Chism’s actions were part of an attorney’s advice to spend their money on “exempt” items that would allow him to qualify for Medicaid.
She said “mistrust” developed between the children and Karen Chism, partly because the children lived far away. “It’s really a shame there was that much mistrust and division,” she said.
“I’m sorry to see that he passed,” Patterson-Courie said of James Chism. “He was a very engaging, sweet man.”
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Retired chiropractor at center of legal battle dies