If you are an adult, Kentucky law recognizes your right to make a written declaration of your wishes about life-prolonging treatment and artificial nutrition and hydration. Kentucky law also recognizes your right to make a written declaration of your health care wishes if you should become incapacitated and to designate a person to carry out those wishes for you. This written declaration often is called a “living will” or “advance directive.” Anyone age 18 or older may create a living will directive if he or she is of sound mind.
A living will directive is your standing instruction to doctors, health care providers and others about the life-prolonging medical treatment and artificial nutrition and hydration you wish to receive, or not receive, if you have a terminal condition or are permanently unconscious.
A living will directive also allows you to designate one or more other adults to make your health care decisions if you are unable to do so. The person you designate is called your “surrogate.” Your surrogate may have to make important and difficult personal decisions about your care, so you should choose that person carefully. Try to pick someone you know well and trust, and who is likely to know how you would wish to be treated in a particular situation. Before choosing your surrogate, be sure the person you pick is willing to take on this responsibility.
There are some special provisions. For example, living will directives do not apply if a patient is known to be pregnant. Also, the surrogate may authorize the withdrawal or withholding of artificial nutrition and hydration only under the following circumstances:
- When inevitable death is imminent
- When the patient is permanently unconscious and the decision is consistent with the patient’s living will directive
- When artificial nutrition and hydration cannot be absorbed by the body
- When the burden of providing artificial nutrition and hydration outweighs the benefit
Further, artificial nutrition and hydration must be provided if needed for comfort or pain relief.
To create a living will directive, contact a Norton Healthcare chaplain or other designated representative of the hospital, who will give you a form that is taken from Kentucky ‘s Living Will Directive Act.
If you select a health care surrogate, the form also allows you to choose an alternate if the surrogate you designate cannot or will not act. In addition, the form allows you to designate if you want to donate body organs or tissue. You may change or add additional instructions, but if you do, you may wish to talk with an attorney about whether your changes are valid according to the law.
Kentucky law requires your living will directive to be witnessed by two adults or notarized. Neither the witnesses nor the notary public may be your blood relative, your physician or anyone directly responsible for financing your health care. An employee of the health care facility in which you are a patient may notarize your living will directive, but may not sign as a witness.
Doctors, health care facilities and providers cannot require you to sign a living will directive as a condition of obtaining service. But if you do make a living will directive, you should give a copy to your physician, close family members or others who are likely to help you obtain care if you have a terminal condition or are permanently unconscious. Remember, it is your responsibility to tell your doctor about your living will directive. You also should take a copy of your living will directive with you each time you enter a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility for treatment.
A living will directive is only one kind of advance directive recognized by Kentucky law. The other is a called a durable power of attorney, which allows you to designate a person to take over your affairs if you become incapacitated.
Your decision about advance directives is a personal one, which should be made only after careful thought. If you are considering a living will directive or a durable power of attorney, you may want to discuss your concerns with a family member, close friend, clergy or your physician. If you have any questions about the legal validity of your advance directive, you should consult an attorney.
For additional information
If you have questions about advance directives, ask to speak with a Norton Healthcare chaplain or a patient representative.
This website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Norton Healthcare takes no position on advance directives or whether or not an individual should create a living will directive or a durable power of attorney.
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