Rhode Island Healthcare

Rhode Island Healthcare Directives and Living Wills

What Rhode Island Residents Need to Know About Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney

If you became ill or injured and were unable to speak for yourself, would your loved ones know what kind of medical treatment you want? Would your family members and doctors be legally bound to carry out your wishes?

Without valid documents directing your health care, your wishes for medical treatment may not be known or honored. In an extreme case, your family members could end up in court, arguing over what’s best for you. You can avoid outcomes like these by preparing two basic legal documents.


The Best Sources for Rhode Island Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney Forms

If you've decided it's time to prepare documents directing your health care, congratulations. It may be challenging to think about the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want at the end of life, but your completed forms are almost guaranteed to bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.

To get started, you'll need the right forms to fill out. In Rhode Island, that means obtaining forms for a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Which Health Care Forms Are Best?

You have several options for choosing forms in Rhode Island. To make a Living Will, you can use Rhode Island's official form or create your own. (See Rhode Island General Laws § 23-4.11-3.) If you want to make your own Health Care Power of Attorney, you must use the language required by Rhode Island law. (See Rhode Island General Laws § 23-4.10-2.)

If you want to quickly prepare legally valid health care forms for Rhode Island, you can find links to free forms below. Many people prefer, however, to have additional guidance to help them complete their documents.

Following is a brief overview of what Rhode Island's health care forms cover, as well as options for getting additional help, if you need it.

About Rhode Island's Health Care Forms

Rhode Island's health care forms allow you to do the following.

Living Will. Rhode Island's official Living Will form allows you to state that you do not want life-prolonging procedures if you are close to death from an incurable or irreversible condition. It doesn't allow space for directing your health care in different situations or adding other types of guidance about when you would or would not want your life to be prolonged. If you want to provide a more comprehensive guide to your wishes, we recommend that you use the Health Care Power of Attorney published by the Rhode Island Department of Health or one of the other resources discussed below. 

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The Rhode Island Department of Health offers a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care that allows you to both name a health care representative and leave health care instructions that are much more detailed than the state's Living Will form. 

This form allows you to appoint your health care agent to will speak for you if you become too ill to speak for yourself. You can name a first choice and one or two alternates who will step in if your first choice becomes unable to serve. You can write in detailed instructions or restrictions to help your agent make health care decisions for you. You can also include your wishes for organ donation.

What the forms leave out. Rhode Island's health care forms do not provide sections to cover issues that many people consider to be important, such as:

  • naming a primary physician to oversee your care
  • extending your health care agent's power to cover certain post-death matters, including authorizing an autopsy or arranging for burial or cremation, and
  • nominating your agent to serve as your court-appointed guardian to handle all matters related to your personal comfort and care, should that become necessary.

You can make valid Rhode Island health care forms that cover these matters and more using Quicken WillMaker estate planning software or by consulting an experienced lawyer.

Making Rhode Island Health Care Forms with Quicken WillMaker

We're going to be upfront here. The authors of this website, Albin Renauer, J.D., and Shae Irving, J.D., have extensive experience creating tools to help people make their own valid legal forms, and they have spent a couple of decades researching and studying the health care directive laws for the fifty states. Each is a lawyer and contributor to the Quicken WillMaker estate planning software program, available from Nolo.com.

The Rhode Island Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney documents you make with Quicken WillMaker meet all state law requirements and allow you to spell out your wishes for health care in as little or as much detail as you choose. The program walks you step by step through the process of making your documents, explaining each choice along the way. When you're done, you simply print your completed documents and follow the enclosed instructions about how to sign them, have them witnessed or notarized, and get them into the hands of those who may need to know your wishes in the future.

Quicken WillMaker's Rhode Island forms cover all the issues discussed above. If you're ready to get started, you can download Quicken WillMaker and make your forms today.

Where to Get Free Copies of Rhode Island's Health Care Forms

If do-it-yourself software doesn't appeal to you, or if you simply want to compare your options, see the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care available for download from the Rhode Island Department of Health.

When to Get a Lawyer's Help

Health care forms are specially designed so you can complete them on your own, or with input as needed from your doctor or other health care advisers. That said, if you feel more comfortable enlisting a lawyer to make or review your documents, you should seek help from a qualified estate planning attorney.

For more information about hiring a lawyer to make your documents, including situations when a lawyer's help may be particularly useful, see Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?


What Can I Cover in My Living Will?

Both federal and state law give you the power to direct your own medical care. This means that you can say whether you want life-support measures -- such as a respirator or feeding tubes -- at the end of your life.

In truth, you could use a pen and the back of a napkin to scribble a wish that you not be placed on life support and, if those wishes were "clear and convincing," the law would honor them. But have no doubt: The best place to write out your health care wishes is in a living will. By clearly expressing your wishes in a document approved by your state, you can remove confusion and potential conflict from a stressful situation.  more...  

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How Do I Choose a Health Care Agent?

A health care agent is the person you name to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. Some states use a different name for a health care agent, such as “proxy,” “representative,” or “attorney in fact.” Rhode Island uses the term “agent.” You will name this person when you make your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

What Your Health Care Agent Can Do

If you can’t communicate because of a serious illness or injury, your health care agent is legally authorized to step in and carry out your wishes for medical care, making any necessary treatment decisions along the way. Your agent will have the sole legal authority to speak for you, taking into account all that he or she knows about your desires for treatment and your personal beliefs. Your agent is not required to consult family members before making decisions on your behalf, unless your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care explicitly requires that.


Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?

You can make a living will without a lawyer’s help. In fact, most states have designed their health care forms -- called Declarations and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care in Rhode Island -- with the specific intention that you will complete them yourself. Usually, you’ll need to consult a health care professional or an attorney only if there is something about your forms that you don’t understand.

How to Make Your Own Health Care Documents

Though you’re not likely to need professional help, you do need to take certain steps to ensure that your health care documents are legally valid. Each state has its own rules for creating health care documents; you’ll want to be sure you find and complete the right forms for your state. After your forms are filled out, you must finalize them correctly, including signing them in front of witnesses or a notary public, according to your state’s laws.

You can find the forms and rules for Rhode Island using the links below.

When You May Want Professional Help

There are a few circumstances in which it makes good sense to make your health care documents with the help of a health care professional or estate planning lawyer.


How Do I Get a DNR Order in Rhode Island?

A DNR order, short for "do not resuscitate order," alerts emergency personnel that you do not wish to receive cardiopulonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. It is a medical order that must be signed by a doctor.

DNR orders are used primarily by people who are already critically ill and feel strongly that they do not want life-prolonging treatment when close to death. If you do not have a DNR order, emergency medical personnel must use all available measures, no matter how invasive, to save your life.

Getting a DNR order in the hospital. When you are admitted to a hospital, your doctor can add a DNR order to your medical record. This may happen in a number of ways:


What Is a POLST Form?

A POLST form is a document that tells health care professionals what kind of medical treatments you do or do not wish to receive at the end of your life. POLST is short for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment,” though the document may go by a different name in your state.

How POLST Forms Work

A POLST form is a medical order that a doctor or other approved health care professional may make for you if you are:

  • nearing the end of your life, and
  • admitted to a hospital or enter another health care setting, such as hospice.

The POLST form gives directions to medical providers about life-sustaining treatments, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), intubation, and feeding tubes. If you move from one health care setting to another, you POLST form will travel with you.

To be valid, health care provider who helps you make the POLST must sign the form and place it in your medical records. It will be printed on brightly colored paper so it can’t easily be overlooked.

Why You Still Need a Living Will

Even though a POLST form addresses many of the same issues covered by a DNR order and a living will, it is not a complete substitute for a properly prepared set of advance directives.

You cannot, for example, use a POLST form to name a health care agent to carry out your health care wishes. For that, you need a durable power of attorney for health care. Nor can you make a POLST form in advance -- while you are healthy -- to specify your treatment wishes for the future. To do that, you need a living will.

How to Get a POLST Form

POLSTs are not yet available in all states. Where they are used, they may go by another name, such as POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), or COLST (Clinician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

If Rhode Island offers a POLST or similar form, you can find out what it is called and learn more about it by clicking the link below. If Rhode Island is not on this list, see the end of this article for more information.


What Is a Mental Health Care Directive?

A Mental Health Care Directive is a document that describes your wishes for care and treatment if you have a psychiatric emergency. It takes effect only during times when you are unable to communicate or make your own decisions. A Mental Health Care Directive is sometimes called an Advance Mental Health Care Directive or a Psychiatric Advance Directive.

Besides stating your treatment preferences, a mental health care directive usually names a trusted person to speak on your behalf. This person, often called your agent, works with mental health care providers to ensure you get the kind of care you want.

How Mental Health Care Directives Differ from Standard Advance Directives

A typical Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will gives instructions about end-of-life health care. But a Mental Health Care Directive may be used during periods of serious mental illness at any stage of your life. It focuses on treatment concerns that arise during psychiatric crises, such as hospitalization, medications, doctors, and therapists. more...