You have the right to make decisions regarding your own medical care, including the right to refuse medical treatment if that is your preference.
However, if you are unable to make health care decisions because of a physical or mental condition, the question arises as to who should make those health care decisions for you. Should your personal physician make those decisions for you? Should your spouse or some other family member be given that power? Therein lies the problem that leads to the emotional - and sometimes legal - battles among family members when an individual is unable to make health care decisions for himself.
Most states recognize the right of a competent adult to make advance health care directives (commonly called "advance directives"), including the type of life-prolonging procedures that should - or should not - be provided under certain circumstances; the designation of another person or persons to make health care decisions for them if they can’t make them on their own; the designation of another person or persons who should be appointed as guardian or conservator, if necessary; and, whether anatomical gifts are desired.
In this section, we discuss the various advance directives that have evolved over the years, including health care proxies, the living will, the designation of a conservator for future incapacity, and the document for anatomical gifts.
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