With the increasing ability of medical science to sustain our lives, people are living much longer than ever before. Unfortunately, as we grow older and experience poor health, we may find ourselves in a position where decisions need to be made as to how we wish to be treated in a variety of medical situations at the end of our lives. Further, sometimes we find ourselves in a condition where we can no longer express our preferences. Advance health care directives allow us to deal with these situations. Without such directives, your family may find it necessary to obtain court orders to deal with your medical situation.
State laws vary concerning the appropriate documents to cover these situations. All fifty states permit you to express your wishes as to medical treatment in terminal illness or injury situations, and to appoint someone to speak for you in the event you cannot speak for yourself. Depending on the state, these documents are known as "living wills," "health care proxies," or "advance health care directives." Some states have a standardized document for this process, while other states leave the language up to individual lawyers and their clients.