Impaired . . . or Incompetent?

There is no machine or thermometer that determines when a person’s memory problem renders him incompetent.  That’s up to the courts to decide.  It can be tough to determine this, so the court appoints a lawyer to investigate each case.  Called the “guardian ad litem,” this lawyer must assess the situation, review medical records, question family members, and draw up a report.

Lauren Johnson (center) with a client and her daughter.

Lauren Johnson (center) with a client and her daughter.

Lauren Johnson served as guardian ad litem in three cases.  In two of them, she determined that the persons she was appointed to assist were actually able to make good decisions.  They both had some impairments, but were managing well and making reasonable choices.  As a result, the family members who had filed the guardianship cases took voluntary dismissals.  The two people then signed financial and health care powers of attorney picking responsible relatives to help them.

Lauren came to the Elder Law Clinic with an interesting background in health law.  She has worked in the field of clinical research programs and with the federal government on human research protection.  Lauren also worked at the Association of American Medical Colleges, and with the institutional review board of a major teaching hospital.  Her experience in the Elder Law Clinic allowed her to see health law issues from the perspective of the consumer.

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