Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama: Give Gay Couples Hospital Visiting Rights

I am so happy to see that something good has come from this tragic event. I'm hoping it's a sign of good things to come regarding gay rights in the United States.

President Barack Obama has issued an executive order that extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners. The President's order was apparently inspired in part by the case of a woman who fell into a coma at Miami's Ryder Trauma Center, while her life partner was made to stay in a waiting room.

The order, quietly issued by the Obama administration while the President was visiting Miami Thursday, directs that hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds must allow visitation and health care decisions to be left to patients. Mr. Obama points out in his order that it does not exclusively benefit same-sex partners, but that gays and lesbians are "uniquely affected… often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives."

The order, quietly issued by the Obama administration while the President was visiting Miami Thursday, directs that hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds must allow visitation and health care decisions to be left to patients. Mr. Obama points out in his order that it does not exclusively benefit same-sex partners, but that gays and lesbians are "uniquely affected… often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives."

In 2007, Lisa Pond of Seattle had just boarded a cruise ship in Miami with her partner of 18 years, Janice Langbehn, and the couple's adopted children when Pond fell ill. She was rushed to Jackson Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center where Langbehn was not permitted to visit with her. Langbehn claimed that a Jackson Hospital social worker told her that "this is a anti-gay city, an anti-gay state and you're not going to see your partner, period."

Langbehn said that even after she produced a power of attorney given her by Pond, she was denied visitation. Pond lapsed into a coma and died the next day. Langbehn said she was finally allowed to be at her bedside as last rights were administered. Langbehn sued Jackson Hospital. The case was thrown out of court.

Langbehn said she got a call from the White House Thursday. "A staff member came on and asked if I could hold a moment for the President. I said, 'Of course I can hold a moment for the President!'"

"He (President Obama) started out by saying 'I know of your story and I know about Lisa's death, and I'm so sorry for how you were treated,'" Langbehn told KIRO-TV in Seattle.

Jackson has denied any discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a letter to President Obama Friday, hospital officials wrote, "Jackson has always been inclusive of the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community." The hospital said that the nurse in charge of Lisa Pond's care the night she was admitted, and who made all visitation decisions regarding Bond's case, "is herself a lesbian with a life partner."

The hospital said the decision to delay visitation was made solely based on medical considerations. "Our first priority... is always to stabilize the patient and save their life," the hospital's letter said.

The changes in federal rules directed by President Obama would allow patients to designate any individuals as permitted visitors, including them in documents - such as advance directives - that have legal force when a patient is in a coma or otherwise unable to communicate. (SOURCE)

No comments: