Download the Attorney General's Living Will Packet
Folleto Informativo Sobre el Testamento Vital en Español
A Living Will gives you a voice in decisions about your medical care when you are unconscious or too ill to communicate. As long as you are able to express your own decisions, your Living Will will not be used and you can accept or refuse any medical treatment. But if you become seriously ill, you may lose the ability to participate in decisions about your own treatment.
You have the right to make decisions about your health care. No health care may be given to you over your objection, and necessary health care may not be stopped or withheld if you object.
The Kentucky Living Will Directive Act of 1994 was passed to ensure that citizens have the right to make decisions regarding their own medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment. This right to decide — to say yes or no to proposed treatment — applies to treatments that extend life, like a breathing machine or a feeding tube.
In Kentucky a Living Will allows you to leave instructions in four critical areas. You can:
- Designate a Health Care Surrogate
- Refuse or request life prolonging treatment
- Refuse or request artificial feeding or hydration (tube feeding)
- Express your wishes regarding organ donation
Everyone age 18 or older can have a Living Will. The effectiveness of a Living Will is suspended during pregnancy.
It is not necessary that you have an attorney draw up your Living Will. Kentucky law (KRS 311.625) actually specifies the form you should fill out. You probably should see an attorney if you make changes to the Living Will form. The law also prohibits relatives, heirs, health care providers or guardians from witnessing the Will. You may wish to use a Notary Public in lieu of witnesses.
The Living Will form includes two sections. The first section is the Health Care Surrogate section which allows you to designate one or more persons, such as a family member or close friend, to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. The second section is the Living Will section in which you may make your wishes known regarding life-prolonging treatment so your Health Care Surrogate or Doctor will know what you want them to do. You can also decide whether to donate any of your organs in the event of your death.
When choosing a surrogate, remember that the person you name will have the power to make important treatment decisions, even if other people close to you might urge a different decision. Choose the person best qualified to be your health care surrogate. Also, consider picking a back-up person, in case your first choice isn’t available when needed. Be sure to tell the person that you have named them a surrogate and make sure that the person understands what’s most important to you. Your wishes should be laid out specifically in the Living Will.
If you decide to make a Living Will, be sure to talk about it with your family and your doctor. The conversation is just as important as the document.
A copy of any Living Will should be put in your medical records. Each time you are admitted for an overnight stay in a hospital or nursing home, you will be asked whether you have a Living Will. You are responsible for telling your hospital or nursing home that you have a Living Will.
If there is anything you do not understand regarding the form, you might want to discuss it with an attorney. You can also ask your doctor to explain the medical issues. When completing the form, you may complete all of the form, or only the parts you want to use. You are not required by law to use these forms. Different forms, written the way you want, may also be used. You should consult with an attorney for advice on drafting your own forms.
You are not required to make a Living Will to receive healthcare or for any other reason. The decision to make a Living Will must be your own personal decision and should only be made after serious consideration.
KRS 311.623 — Living Will Directive
KRS 311.629 — Powers of Health Care Surrogate
KRS 311.631 — Responsible Parties Authorized to Make Health Care Decisions (if you have not designated a Health Care Surrogate)
The following links will take you outside of the Office of the Attorney General's website, thus the Attorney General cannot be responsible for the content of the these links. However, they are listed to provide a resource for those seeking additional information.
FAQ's Regarding Living Wills and advance directives in Kentucky — Baptist Health Kentucky
More information on advance directives — American Cancer Society
Advance directives and DNR orders — American Academy of Family Physicians