How Lamar Odom and ‘Being Mary Jane’ Should Have You Considering an Advance Directive

It has been over two weeks since former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom was hospitalized following a reported overdose at a Nevada brothel.

But you knew that already. How could you not? Mainstream media has brought Lamar Odom—man, son, father, two-time NBA champion and 2010-2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year—and his woes closer to us than most second cousins. Talk of his health and what many people have rationalized as the “curse” that befell Odom the moment he said “I do” to one of the members of “America’s First Family,” has made it to our dinner tables, our water cooler conversations and social media space.

Since reports of Odom’s alleged overdose and the grim prognosis that followed, it has been clear that the real focus is not Odom’s health and well-being and his rise, fall, rise, and fall again story that mirrors so many men and women we encounter daily.  Instead, the epicenter has been the affairs of those on the peripheral of his near death experience. Media has focused on Odom’s wife and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Odom’s father and his mottled past, and even former teammate Kobe Bryant. The headlines of Odom’s ordeal have been a regular game of “Where’s Waldo,” Kardashian-style.

But this post is not to lament over mainstream media’s lack of compassion. This post is the silver lining of a medical and mental health situation that resulted in the hospitalization of a man who had been separated from his wife when he was declared comatose and unable to make decisions for himself. Recognize Odom’s health crisis as a learning opportunity and the silver lining of a tragedy that could have been worse.

  In my profession there have been countless times where I have witnessed a comatose, brain dead or otherwise medically incompetent patient’s fate be decided by strangers, unwilling medical agents or family members whose judgment was clouded by guilt, selfishness and pain.   Despite Lamar Odom being nearly divorced from Khloe Kardashian, she is still legally his next of kin and medical decision-maker. This situation is not unique to Lamar and Khloe.  In many regards it was almost repeated on the most recent episode of Being Mary Jane when one of the characters committed suicide…because the black community also falls victim to suicide and mental illness. Had that character’s farewell been botched, or had she avoided death only to fall into a coma, her mother—the mother she hadn’t spoken to for years—would have been the person to decide her fortune. This is often the scenario when individuals do not take the time to educate themselves, evaluate and define “quality of life,” and establish medical advance directives.

If you’re at least 18 years of age and capable of reading this post, then you’re of sound mind and able to decide–in advance–the person or persons you wish to enforce your medical wishes in the event you’re ever incapable of doing so on your own volition.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), but today I encourage you to define what quality of life looks and feels like to you. Advanced care planning is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.

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For state specific resources and information on how to complete an advance directive please visit NHDD.org.

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