When former NBA star Lamar Odom was found unresponsive and rushed to a Las Vegas hospital, his condition made national news. Many people were surprised by reports that his soon-to-be-ex-wife, reality TV star Khloe Kardashian, was making medical decisions for him. Media sensation aside, this event provides an important lesson for all men going through divorce.
Despite a very public marriage and their own spin-off reality show, Odom and Kardashian decided to separate in 2013. A lengthy divorce followed, with final paperwork not being signed and submitted to a judge until the summer of 2015. Due to the tremendous backlog of cases in California’s court system, the divorce decree had still not been signed by a judge at the time of Odom’s incident. Since the couple was not yet legally divorced, Kardashian was still his spouse, and able to make medical decisions for him.
Who Makes Medical Decisions When You Can’t?
When a person is unable to make medical decisions for themselves due to injury or illness, another responsible party must step in. For married patients that almost always means the spouse, while doctors will look towards parents or adult children if the patient is single. These medical decisions include everything from choosing between different procedures to making the decision to cease life prolonging intervention.
During a divorce, the parties remain legally married until a final judgment is issued by the court. That could lead to the very interesting situation of a man’s soon-to-be ex-wife making life and death medical decisions for him. While such circumstances are extremely rare, Lamar Odom’s case shows that it is possible. Thankfully, you don’t have to leave medical decisions up to chance.
Do You Need a Living Will?
Legal documents such as a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care allow you to specify an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. You can also detail what treatments and procedures you will and won’t accept. If you are going through a lengthy divorce and don’t want your wife making healthcare decisions in the case of an illness or accident, you can appoint someone else as your attorney-in-fact for health care. This is especially important if you have started a new relationship. You wouldn’t want a hospital room conflict between your new girlfriend and your soon-to-be ex-wife.
If you had a living will before getting divorced, it is important to update it during or immediately after the divorce and name a new attorney-in-fact for health care.
While having your almost ex-wife rush to your bedside and start making medical decisions for you after an accident sounds like the plot to a cheesy TV movie, it can happen. Fortunately for Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian, everything worked out great. The celebrity couple has reportedly decided to call off their divorce and stay married.