Obama orders end to discrimination by hospitals

President Barack Obama has instructed the Health and Human Services department to develop new rules for hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

The memorandum from Obama to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, made public late Thursday night, orders new rules that would ensure hospitals “respect the rights of patients to designate visitors.”

Obama says the new rules should require that hospitals not deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay,” Obama says in the memo.

Affected, he said, are “gay and lesbian American who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”

Cue conservatives to start whining about “special rights for homosexuals,” as if there is something extraordinary about visiting a loved one in the hospital or granting your life partner power of medical attorney. I’m glad the president took a stand on this issue.

I’m curious to see how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reacts to this executive order. I don’t know whether Catholic hospitals are more likely to have rules in place preventing visitation by gay or lesbian partners, but I would expect religious conservatives to complain about the government nullifying such rules. I wonder whether there is even grounds to challenge Obama’s order in court, if hospitals could demonstrate that their visitation bans are grounded in religious principles.  

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  • Wonderful!

    I  think this is the smartest thing Pres. Obama could do.  Between the possibility of repealing DADT,  this is going to help a lot of couples that suffer needlessly through the alienation of the hospital setting and the Drs.  

    That one woman whose partner suffered an anurysm while on vacation,  and she couldn’t even sit at bedside because she wasn’t a relative.  Pres. Obama called her personally after he signed the executive order.  

    Most hospitals are pretty good about it, actually.  I took care of a woman once with Varicella Pneumonia, whose partner was going to bring in her POA papers.  This woman was really sick and would die if not placed on a respirator for 3 days, due to breathing problems.  So her doctor told her to go on a ventilator for 3 days,  while drugged,  and when she woke up, her pneumonia would be better.  So the woman turned to me and told me to call her significant other and tell her “do not bring the POA papers in.  because it states that she does not want a ventilator.”  Her friend sat at her bedside the whole 3 days she was drugged on a vent.  Nobody questioned her right to be there.  She got a recliner, pillow and blanket and we expected her to be there.  So some hospitals are good about this sort of thing. But I imagine there are others that are not.  

    Another patient I cared for was a person that had a stroke,  and was put in a room with another male patient.  My patient was listed as a hermaphrodite.  He was physically a female,  but had lived as a man for over 45 years.  So his Doctor put him in a male room.  That’s a surprise, and most hospitals wouldn’t do it.  Some Docs are wonderful.  Others aren’t.