Living Wills

What is a “Living Will”?

A Living Will is a document that tells your doctor or other health care providers whether or not you want “life-prolonging treatments” or procedures administered to you if you are in a “terminal condition” or in a “permanently unconscious” state. It is called a Living Will because it takes effect while you are still living.

What are “Life-Prolonging Treatments” or Procedures?

Life-prolonging treatments or procedures mean any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention which:

  • Utilizes mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, prolong, restore, or supplant a spontaneous vital function (i.e. respirators, ventilators and feeding tubes); and
  • When administered to a patient would serve only to prolong the dying process. “Life-prolonging treatment” does not include the administration of medication or the performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary to alleviate pain.

What is a “Terminal Condition”?

A terminal condition is defined as a condition caused by injury, disease, or illness which, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, as determined solely by the patient's attending physician and one other physician, is incurable and irreversible and will result in death within a relatively short time, and where the application of life-prolonging treatment would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process.

What is a “Permanently Unconscious” State?

A permanently unconscious state means a condition which, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, as determined solely by the patient's attending physician and one other physician on clinical examination, is characterized by an absence of cerebral cortical functions indicative of consciousness.

Is a Living Will the same as a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) Order?

No - A Kentucky Living Will covers almost all types of life-prolonging treatments and procedures. A “Do Not Resuscitate” order covers two types of life-threatening situations. It states that if you suffer cardiac arrest (your heart stops beating) or respiratory arrest (you stop breathing), your health care providers are not to try to revive you by any means.

Is a “Living Will” the same as a “Will” or “Living Trust”?

No - Wills and living trusts are financial documents that allow you to plan for the distribution of your financial assets and property after your death. A Living Will only deals with medical issues while you are still living.

When does a Kentucky Living Will go into effect?

A Kentucky Living Will goes into effect when:

  • Your doctor has a copy of it; and
  • Your doctor has concluded that you are no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions; and
  • Your doctor and one other physician have determined that you are in a terminal condition or a permanently unconscious state.

A Living Will allows you the opportunity to clearly state in writing to health care providers and loved ones your wishes regarding life-prolonging treatment or procedures. Having a Living Will relieves loved ones of the burden of making such a decision.

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