ADVANCE DIRECTIVE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is an advance directive?
Advance directive is a general term that refers to legal documents that allow you to give instructions about your future medical care in the event that you become unable to speak for yourself because of serious illness or incapacity. Each state regulates the use of advance directives differently.
A living will is a type of advance directive in which you put in writing your wishes about medical treatment, should you be at the end of your life and unable to communicate. This document may be known by different names in different states, such as health care declaration, medical directive, or living will directive. Regardless of what it is called, its purpose is to guide your family and doctors in deciding how aggressively to use life prolonging medical treatments.
You may also appoint a health care surrogate to make medical decisions on your behalf. The person you appoint as your surrogate is authorized to deal with all medical situations, not only end-of-life decisions, when you cannot speak for yourself and lack decisional capacity. Thus, he or she can speak for you if you become temporarily incapacitated -- after an accident, for example -- as well as if you become irreversibly ill. Therefore, you should discuss your wishes with your surrogate, and the person you appoint should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes.
Kentucky has a living will directive form which combines both of the above, and allows you to designate a health care surrogate and/or direct your health care wishes as well as express your wishes relating to organ donation.
After I sign an advance directive, can it be revoked if I change my mind?
Your advance directive may be revoked at any time. In Kentucky, this document may be revoked by stating this in writing, by oral statement in the presence of a health care provider and another adult, or by destroying the advance directive document. Please notify hospital personnel as soon as possible if you decide to revoke your advance directive.
What should I tell my doctor?
You should make your physician(s) aware of your advance directive, and discuss with your physician(s) any concerns or questions regarding your wishes.
Will the hospital and my doctor honor my advance directive?
It is Hardin Memorial Hospital’s policy to honor your advance directive or instruction from your health care surrogate to the full extent required or allowed by Kentucky law. By law, any physician or health care facility which refuses to comply with your advance directive or decision of your surrogate shall inform you or your surrogate. Should this become the case, you or your surrogate may request another physician or request a transfer to another health care facility.
Will the hospital keep my advance directive on file?
Although healthcare providers cannot require you to have an advance directive, federal law requires hospitals to inform patients about advance directives when they are admitted, and to ask them whether they have an advance directive. When you give us a copy of your advance directive, it is placed on your chart so that your doctors and hospital personnel are aware of your wishes. When you are discharged from the hospital, the copy of your advance directive is filed with your chart from that particular visit. You should bring a copy of your advance directive to the hospital each time you are admitted. Sometimes, patients change their advance directives, and it is important that we have your most current version.
How do I make an advance directive?
Should you decide to execute an advance directive, the Kentucky living will directive form is enclosed. Please read it carefully before making a decision to sign it. Remember that a living will directive is a legal document with legal consequences. If you have any questions regarding the legal effect of this document, please consult an attorney. The information provided to you by Hardin Memorial Hospital is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. In Kentucky, the living will directive must be either notarized by a notary public, or witnessed by two adults in your presence and in the presence of each other. The individuals who may witness or notarize your signature on this document cannot be your blood relative, your beneficiary, your attending physician, or any person financially responsible for your health care. Employees of the hospital may not serve as witnesses, but may notarize your signature. Notary services are available by contacting our Patient Advocate during regular business hours.
How can I get more information?
More information on advance directives is available by contacting our Patient Advocate at (270) 706-1327.