Friday, April 16, 2010

Patient's Rights: Non-Discrimination in Hospital Visitation

Did you know that there are some hospitals and medical facilities that will keep an unmarried person from visiting his or her partner?  There are.  And, many times it doesn't even matter if the people are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship.  That's about to change.

On April 15, 2010, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement new rules to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors, and that such visitors should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy.

After such rules are promulgated, participating hospitals will no longer be able to deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  However, the rules will still 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.

Further, the Memorandum directs that rules be put into place to ensure that hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid respect a patient's decision contained in the patient's advanced directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, and that the patient's representatives otherwise have the right to make informed decisions regarding the patient's care.

This is great news for unmarried couples, whether they be in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, as well as people who wish to designate someone other than a family member to make their healthcare decisions for them.

To read the entire text of the Presidential Memorandum, click here.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16

Studies show that less than one-third of all adults in the U.S. have a living will or any type of Advance Directive.  National Healthcare Decisions Day (NCDD) began in 2008 as a grassroots initiative to address this problem, by encouraging Americans to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes. The event's date, April 16th, is no coincidence. Nathan Kottkamp, Chairman of the NHDD initiative, selected the day after "Tax Day" as a tribute to Benjamin Franklin's famous adage: "Nothing in life is certain but death and taxes."

At Kristel K. Patton, P.C., we are committed to helping our clients plan for whatever the future may hold, not just financially but in all matters relating to healthcare.  This is why we have made a living will and healthcare power of attorney part of every client's comprehensive estate plan.  And, why we give our clients who are enrolled in our Empowered Legacy Planning Maintenance and Education process a complimentary membership to the DocuBank Healthcare Directives Registry. This service ensures our clients' healthcare directives and other vital medical information are immediately available to medical professionals and family members 24/7/365 in the event of an emergency.

If you have an existing healthcare power of attorney and living will, we encourage you to review your directives to ensure they still reflect your wishes. Tell your loved ones you have created documents pertaining to your healthcare wishes, so they will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing what to do in an emergency. And, if you are a DocuBank member, carry your DocuBank card in your purse or wallet at all times.