New Rules Grant Greater Medical Rights For Same-Sex Partners

November 18, 2010 12:56 pm

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HHS Says Hospitals Must Respect Patients’ Rights To Designate Visitors And Make Medical Decisions

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NEW YORK – The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare issued new rules yesterday that require all hospitals that participate in Medicaid and Medicare to allow patients to designate who shall be allowed to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. The order will allow for same-sex partners to have the same rights as other immediate family members. The new rules will be published in the Federal Register on November 19.

“We are thankful that the administration has acknowledged that everyone should have the right to be with their loved ones in their times of need,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Nobody should have to suffer the indignity of having to justify who should be at their hospital bedside.”

The rules follow a directive issued by President Obama to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in April in which he noted that LGBT people are “uniquely affected” by being “unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.” Upon announcing the rules yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Basic human rights — such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need — must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals.”

“Same-sex couples deserve the same respect during life’s most difficult moments as anyone else,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We are glad President Obama insisted that HHS issue this directive to our nation’s hospitals so that all families can be there for each other when they need it most.”

The rules will require hospitals to have written policies and procedures to explain to patients that they have the right to choose who can visit them, that their visitors will have full and equal visitation rights and they have the right to withdraw their consent at any time.

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