Obama Orders Greater Medical Rights For Same-Sex Partners

April 16, 2010 1:02 pm

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Tells HHS To Order Hospitals To Respect Patients’ Rights To Designate Visitors And Make Medical Decisions

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NEW YORK – President Obama has asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to order 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 would allow for same-sex partners to have the same rights as immediate family members.

“President Obama has acknowledged that nobody should have to suffer through the pain and anxiety of not being able to be with their loved ones in their time of need,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “We welcome this bold step in achieving dignity for all Americans.”

The president’s memo to the Secretary of Health and Human Services states, “There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean — a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.” The president said that gay and lesbian Americans 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.”

“This order hopefully signals the end of unnecessary pain for gay people by granting same-sex couples respect and fairness during life’s most dire moments,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We hope that HHS will implement this order as soon as possible.”

The order requires that hospitals that participate in Medicaid and Medicare not deny visitation rights based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. HHS is requested to provide the president with recommendations on addressing hospital visitation, medical decision-making and other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families within 180 days.

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