The state of Kentucky recognizes and adult’s right to make a written decision about future life prolonging treatment and artificial nutrition and fluids. Anyone over the age of 18 is permitted to create a “living will” or advance directive if they are of sound mind.
A living will directive is your 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 health care decisions on your behalf 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 someone you know well and trust. Before choosing your surrogate, be sure the person you pick is willing to take on this responsibility. You’re also able to designate a second surrogate if the person you chose cannot or will not act.
There are some exceptions to the living will directive. For example, living wills 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 if:
- 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.
Your decision about advance directives is a personal one. 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.