By law, hospitals and health care institutions are required to ask patients when they are admitted if they have a living will. As a patient, you will be asked if you have a living will each time you are admitted to the hospital. If you have one, you will need to provide a copy each time you are admitted. Because of the sensitive nature of living wills, St. Elizabeth Healthcare will not accept copies of your living will before you are admitted.
Click here to download the Attorney General's Kentucky Living Will Form
Folleto Informativo Sobre el Testamento Vital en Espanol
Here are some general questions that will help you through the living will process.
What is a living will?
A living will is a document that states, in writing, your choices about medical care and/or names someone to make medical choices for you if you become unable to make decisions regarding medical care for yourself. It is called a "living will" or an “advance directive” because it is signed in advance to let your family and doctor know your wishes about medical treatment. Through a living will, you can make legally valid decisions about your future medical care. Kentucky law recognizes several types of living wills. They include advance directives, health care surrogate designations, durable powers of attorney for healthcare and living will directives.
Who can make a living will?
Any person age 18 or older who is of sound mind may make a living will.
What is a health care surrogate?
A health care surrogate is an adult that you name in your Kentucky Living Will and Health Care Surrogate Designation Document or another written document, to make medical decisions for you when you are not able to decide for yourself.
Who can be a surrogate?
Any adult 18 or older may be a surrogate except for employees, owners, directors or officers of a health care facility (such as a hospital or nursing home) where you are receiving care unless that person is related to you or a member of your religious order.
What kinds of decisions can a surrogate make?
In general, your surrogate has the authority to make any medical care decisions that you may make for yourself. However, your surrogate may decide to withhold or stop artificial nutrition and hydration (artificially provided food, water, other nourishment or fluids) only in the following circumstances:
- If death is expected in a few days.
- If the feeding cannot be digested.
- If the burden of providing tube feeding is greater than the benefit.
- If you are in a permanently unconscious state and either you have given permission to withhold or stop artificial nutrition and hydration in a written advance directive or there is clear and convincing evidence that you would not have wanted to receive artificial nutrition and hydration under the circumstances.
A surrogate cannot reject life-prolonging treatment for a pregnant woman except in limited circumstances. Your surrogate must honor the wishes you include in your living will and must consider the advice of your doctor.
How do I fill out the living will form?
Complete the following steps:
- Read the entire form completely and make sure you understand what it says.
- Understand that you must be 18 years of age or older to legally fill this out.
- Decide how you wish to fill it out.
- Decide if you will have it notarized by a notary public or signed by two witnesses. Our PrimeWise office will notarize your Living Will form for FREE. Simply call us at (859) 301-5999 for more information.
- Complete the form in the presence of either a notary public or two witnesses. Make sure that you check and initial all the lines that you would like to apply to you, then date and sign the form. Do not fill it out unless the notary public or witnesses are present.
Be aware that the following persons may not be witnesses:
- A blood relative.
- An heir to your estate.
- An employee of a health care facility where you are receiving care (an employee may sign as a notary public but not a witness).
- Your doctor.
- Any person who must pay for your health care.
What should I do with my living will once I have completed it?
Keep the original copy in a safe place, but do not lock it away where you or your family may not be able to get to it if you need it in an emergency. Make sure that family members, close friends and your surrogate(s) have copies and that you have discussed it with them in advance. Ask for a copy of "Talking with Others About Living Wills" by calling the PrimeWise office at (859) 301-5999 or e-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also give a copy to your doctor and discuss it with him or her.
You will be asked if you have a living will each time you are admitted to the hospital or to another facility. This is required by federal law. You need to bring a copy of your living will, if you have one, to the hospital each time you are admitted. This policy protects you by making sure the hospital has your most current living will.
Where can I get help in understanding this living will?
A good place to start is by talking to your doctor. Other resources include the PrimeWise staff or if you are an inpatient, your nurse or the social service staff.