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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Would a living will have been a good choice for Lamar Odom?

It's an all-too-common case, but it's being played out in the media. The tragic situation regarding former NBA player Lamar Odom's reportedly drug-induced collapse and deteriorating medical condition provides an example of what happens when people fail to have legal documents like living wills and advanced medical directives in place. The consequences can be disastrous.

In the basketball star's case, while he and wife Khloe Kardashian had already signed off on their divorce, legal backlogs prevented a judge from signing the judgment. Thus, as Odom lies on his probable deathbed with multiple organ failure and reports of brain death, Kardashian is the one who is legally responsible for making decisions about his medical treatment and life itself.

Had Odom had the foresight to get both a living will and advance medical directive drafted while he was in good health, his preference for the type of end-of-life care would be legally established and carried out. While no allegations have been made that Kardashian has done anything ethically or legally questionable, the situation places her in an almost untenable position given the true status of their relationship.

These documents act as guides for physicians, caregivers and other health care providers in the event of serious injuries, terminal illness, dementia and comatose states like Odom's present condition.

Planning ahead by consulting with a lawyer who can draw up the legal and medical directives you need is a kindness to your next of kin. It is likely that they will be distraught and overcome with grief at the very time that a clear-headed decision is needed the most. Establishing your wishes legally absolves them of the tragic burden of deciding if and when to remove life support and allows you to pass with dignity as you intended.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions," accessed Oct. 16, 2015

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