Nov 18, 2010

New HHS Regs Guarantee Hospital Visitation for Same-Sex Partners

The United States Department of Health and Human Services has issued its final regulation (thanks to Hunter of Justice for the link) in response to a directive from President Obama that provides for hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners. The regulation, which takes effect in 60 days, requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds (meaning, pretty much all hospitals) to institute policies that allow all patients to designate whoever they want as visitors during a hospital stay. 

The Advocate reports that hospitals must inform patients of their right to choose their visitors (and to withdraw their consent as well), and there can be no restrictions on who the visitors are--in other words, the patient can choose a domestic partner, spouse, family member, or other person. This designation can be made orally--nothing is required in writing unless there are competing claims about who should be making medical decisions for an unconscious patient, in which case the hospital, sensibly, can ask for proof of authority to make medical decisions. 

President Obama issued his directive in April after hearing stories about same-sex partners being denied access to partners during what in some cases were the partner's last hours. I don't know what stories President Obama heard, but there are any number of heart-wrenching cases. Once this regulation takes effect we can hope for better treatment for people in these terrible situations.