Earlier this year, the literary world was abuzz with the news that, after more than a half century, author Harper Lee was set to release her second book. Unfortunately, however, public excitement was tempered by rumors and allegations of elder abuse against the aging writer by those who stood to profit from the book’s release.
According to reports, the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman was written in the 1950’s prior to the release of Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, which has become an American literature classic. When originally submitted, Go Set a Watchman was rejected by editors with the suggestion for Lee to consider a different approach, one that ultimately resulted in her best-selling debut novel. Earlier this year, Ms. Lee’s attorney rediscovered the manuscript for Go Set a Watchmen, and publishers jumped at the chance to put it into print. By mid-summer, the book had already sold more than 1.1 million copies.
Concerns of Elder Abuse
Harper Lee is now in her late 80s and suffered a stroke in 2007, so concerns regarding her mental acuity and understanding have been raised in light of the new developments. Many wondered if those responsible for protecting Lee’s best interests may have, in fact, been exploiting her for financial gain. Joe Nocera, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, found it disconcerting that the announcement of Go Set a Watchman came just a few months after the death of Harper Lee’s sister and protector, Alice Lee. This, combined with suggestions that the manuscript may have been found four years ago, instead of earlier this year as Lee’s attorney claimed, have raised suspicions of financial elder abuse.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources has officially determined the allegations of elder abuse to be unfounded. Likewise, representatives from the Alabama Securities Commission, who were included in the investigation into potential financial fraud, also indicated that the aging Ms. Lee understood and approved the publication of the new book. Skeptics, however, remain unconvinced, and the publication of the book, to them, feels like little more than taking advantage of an elderly person.
There have been absolutely no public allegations of physical or emotional mistreatment of Ms. Lee. It is important to remember, though, that elder abuse can absolutely occur in the form of financial exploitation. If you believe that an aging loved one has been the victim of any type of elder abuse, there are many resources available and a qualified legal professional can assist you in finding the right ones. Contact an experienced elder law attorney in Orland Park for help in determining your best course actions. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation.