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.

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