President Obama issued an executive memorandum yesterday ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to write new rules that will mandate equal visitation rights for all hospitals that participate in Medicaid or Medicare.
In the memorandum, Obama writes that the new rules must require that "participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national
origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."
Obama writes about the basis for the memo, "every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
According to the Human Rights Campaign, one particular case that inspired the President's action is that of partners Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond. Last year, Lisa died in the hospital and Janice and their children were prevented from being with her despite having an advanced healthcare directive indicating they should be allowed to be present.
Media Resources: Presidential Memorandum 4/15/10; Human Rights Campaign 4/15/10