Former NBA star Lamar Odom recently suffered a medical emergency that left him comatose and unable to communicate. While Odom’s condition has improved to the point where he is alert and communicative, there was a period of about a week in which he was unable to make or express choices. Because of his incapacitation, the responsibility of making choices on Odom’s behalf fell to his wife, even though the two were in the process of getting divorced.
Lamar Odom’s Incapacitation
Odom experienced a medical emergency that left him unresponsive and hospitalized. Whenever someone loses the ability to make decisions, health care workers will consult with that person’s authorized representative. The representative has the legal authority to make decisions on the incapacitated person’s behalf.
Who an incapacitated person’s medical representative is depends upon the individual circumstances of each case. In Odom’s case, the responsibility fell to his wife, television star Khloe Kardashian.
Incapacitation and Divorce
Though the two were in the process of getting a divorce, Odom and Kardashian were still married, and a spouse typically has the right to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated spouse. Had a court finalized a divorce and issued a divorce decree, the responsibility to make choices for Odom would have fallen to a family member or even a friend.
It also appears that Odom had not created an incapacity plan or any kind of advance medical directive. Had he done so he would have been able to choose whomever he wished to serve as his representative. With a properly drafted advance medical directive any capable adult can choose a health care representative. The person they choose does not have to be a spouse or even a family member, and as long as the directive complies with state law, health care workers must respect it.
A lot of people who become incapacitated do not have an estate plan. The possibility that you might become suddenly or unexpectedly incapacitated is the primary reason why you need to create an incapacity plan regardless of your age or circumstances. Further, if you are going through a divorce and may not want your spouse to have the ability to make choices for you, your need to create a plan is even greater.
As long as you are a mentally capable adult, you can create an incapacity plan that not only names a representative, but which also details your individual heath care wishes. Should you one day lose your ability to make choices or express yourself, your planning devices will be there to speak for you.
On the other hand, should you not have an incapacity plan, your ability to control what happens to you is limited. In some situations, the right to make decisions for you could fall to someone you do not want to have that ability.