The President has taken a step by issuing a Memorandum to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make sure that a patent's rights are respected in relationship to who is allowed to visit and make decisions. Because gays and lesbians are not allowed to marry in most states, their rights to visitation are limited. Most often it is one's closest relatives -- and if the law doesn't respect the relationships of gays and lesbians then they are excluded. This memorandum affecting all hospitals receiving medicare or medicaid payments cannot abridge the rights of the patient to have one's partner present or make medical decisions. This is an important step forward and should be applauded.
Even if one is not supportive of gay marriage, respecting the rights of the individual in these cases should be worthy of support.
Below you will find the key points in the memorandum:
My Administration can expand on these important steps to ensure that patients can receive compassionate care and equal treatment during their hospital stays. By this memorandum, I request that you take the following steps:
1. Initiate appropriate rule making, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395x and other relevant provisions of law, to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The rulemaking should 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.2. Ensure that all hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid are in full compliance with regulations, codified at 42 CFR 482.13 and 42 CFR 489.102(a), promulgated to guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected, and that patients' representatives otherwise have the right to make informed decisions regarding patients' care. Additionally, I request that you issue new guidelines, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395cc and other relevant provisions of law, and provide technical assistance on how hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid can best comply with the regulations and take any additional appropriate measures to fully enforce the regulations.
3. Provide additional recommendations to me, within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, on actions the Department of Health and Human Services can take to address hospital visitation, medical decision making, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.