Important End-of-Life Decisions

When it comes to end-of-life decisions, it's important not to wait until you can’t express your own wishes. Talk to your family and friends before a crisis. Let loved ones know what your wishes are. Illness or injury can happen at any time.

A seagull and tall grass.Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island is available to assist you with completing forms that inform others of your end-of-life wishes and with helping you understand what the forms mean. We can help you answer questions such as:

Do you want:

  • DNR - Do Not Resuscitate - orders, meaning you would not be revived if your heartbeat and breathing stop?
  • To be connected to machines to keep you alive?
  • To donate organs?
  • To be offered antibiotics?
  • To be fed or given water by a feeding tube?
  • Blood transfusions?

Rhode Island law recognizes the right of adults to control decisions related to their own medical care. The law requires that all hospitals and health-care providers give their patients information about their legal right to make decisions regarding their medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment. It also requires health-care providers to ask patients if they have signed advance directives or wish to do so.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care RI General Laws 23-4, 10-1 through 12
Provisions of this law include:

  • A person must be 18 or older to complete a durable power of attorney for health care. 
  • A durable power of attorney authorizes an agent (must also be 18 years or older) to make decisions if you are unable to do so.
  • It encompasses all health-care decisions, including requesting or refusing treatment, but not assisted suicide.
  • Medical condition does not have to be terminal for it to apply.
  • It can include specific limitations/guidance.
  • It need not specifically address nutrition and hydration.
  • Forms must be signed by the individual and two witnesses who are unrelated, not the agent or alternate agent and not associated with the health-care provider or facility providing care or treatment.
  • It is easily revoked, orally or in writing.
  • It is not recognized by emergency, rescue, ambulance personnel except when transferring nursing home patients who have DNR orders.

Forms are available through Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island and throughout the state.

Living Will for RI General Laws 23-4, 11-1 through 15
Provisions of this law include:

  • A living will applies only to terminal conditions that leave one unable to make or communicate decisions.
  • It does not put decision-making responsibility on a specific person (no agent).
  • It is between the patient and the physician.
  • It spells out in writing under which circumstances you want medical care withheld or withdrawn.
  • It refers only to withholding or withdrawing care; it does not cover every possible situation.
  • It must specifically address nutrition and hydration.
  • No special form is required, but one is available through the state.
  • It must be signed by individual and two witnesses not related to the individual; a notary public is not necessary.
  • It is easily revoked, orally or in writing.
  • It is not recognized by emergency, rescue or ambulance personnel.

Forms are available from the state or by calling Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island at (401) 727-7970.

Source: "Making Your Health Care Decisions," Hospital Association of Rhode Island