Main | Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama Mandates Hospital Visitation Rights For LGBT Couples

President Obama tonight ordered the Department of Health & Human Services to prohibit hospitals from discriminating against LGBT couples when it comes to visitations rights.
Administration officials and gay activists, who have been quietly working together on the issue, said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation's health-care institutions. It is currently common policy in many hospitals that only those related by blood or marriage be allowed to visit patients. "Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness, when we need our loved ones with us more than ever," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in praising the decision. Obama's actions are the latest attempt by his administration to advance the agenda of a constituency that strongly supported his presidential campaign.
It's not yet clear how gay couples will establish the validity of their relationships to hospitals, as most do not yet have one that is legally recognized. A side effect to this otherwise very welcome move by the president is that it removes one of the most compelling arguments for marriage equality.

UPDATE: Here's the wording from the first section of the order. "Legally valid advance directives" will be required, apparently.
Initiate appropriate rulemaking, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395x and other relevant provisions of law, to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The rulemaking should take into account the need for hospitals to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances as well as the clinical decisions that medical professionals make about a patient's care or treatment.

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