The wake of the recent unfortunate events involving Lamar Odom, while stirring a gossip frenzy, does bring to light an important reminder. Whether unconscious, incompetent or otherwise just unable to communicate, anyone of us could be in a situation where we are unable to make our own medical decisions.
Although each state recognizes an individual’s right to make his or her own medical decisions if, in a situation where you cannot communicate that decision, it is important to know to whom medical professionals will look to make those decisions on your behalf.
In Mr. Odom’s case, because the dissolution of his marriage had not been finalized, it is likely his estranged wife would be legally entitled to make his medical decisions. If you’re in the middle of a divorce, your estranged spouse may not be the person you’d like to make medical decisions for you. However, until the divorce is finalized by the court, spouses are still legally married and may remain the decision maker for the other’s healthcare.
If not married, each state lists a priority order that healthcare workers must follow to determine the person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Generally, the state looks to those related to you by blood or adoption. Most likely, domestic partners and close friends are at the bottom of the list or not on it at all. So although you’ve been with your domestic partner for 10 years and he or she is the closest person to you, without a document stating otherwise, the state will not allow him or her to make your medical decisions when you cannot.
The good news is, regardless of marital status, you have the ability to specify who can make medical decisions on your behalf and what those decisions should be. These documents – often called Advance Directives – are an easy way to ensure your healthcare wishes are respected when you cannot communicate them.
As a family law attorney in Denver, I believe everyone should have affordable access to legal services, especially for such an important area as medical and healthcare decisions.
To learn how I can help you create your own advance directive, book a consultation today.
This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.
Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law, estate planning, and probate attorney licensed in Colorado.