Ethics and Patient Rights

Your Rights as a Patient

Every patient has the right to be involved.

At Lifespan we are committed to the right of all patients to participate in making medically appropriate decisions about their health care. Because illness, injury or other factors can interfere with a person's ability to make medical decisions, we encourage adults to have written instructions, called advance directives, about their wishes. Your quality of care will be the same whether or not you have written down your instructions ahead of time, but advance directives will make your choices known to your care givers.
More about advance directives »

All patients have choices.

Recent court decisions have confirmed that each of us has a legal right to accept or refuse medical treatment-even a right, under certain circumstances, to die. And you don't lose that right simply because you may lose competency or the ability to communicate as a result of trauma, pain, medication, disease or age. In addition, your right to participate in important decisions about your medical care or treatment was ensured by Congress when, in 1990, it passed a law called the Patient Self-Determination Act. This law also requires health care providers to ask patients if they have signed documents called advance directives, such as a living will or a durable power of attorney for health care (in Massachusetts, a health care proxy).

Lifespan has prepared this site to explain your rights relating to medical care and treatment. It also explains advance directives and defines important terms. Advance directives are the documents you may prepare in order to make sure your wishes are known and clearly understood by family members and care givers in case you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Your medical rights

In the state of Rhode Island, if you are a competent adult 18 years of age or older, you have the right to make decisions about your own medical care, including the right to refuse any life-sustaining medical treatment or procedure. Competent adults are those who have the ability to:

  • understand the nature of their medical condition(s)
  • understand the benefits, risks and burdens of the treatment recommended by their doctors
  • understand the alternatives to that treatment, and
  • reach an informed decision.

Your decisions and your health care facility

You have the right to be informed, in writing, of any policies adopted by the hospital or other health care facility about the way in which the facility will respect your rights to make health care decisions.