Back in April, President Obama took on the issue of a hospital patient’s right to be visited by the person of their choosing. He specifically addressed cases in which same-sex partners were denied access to their loved ones in hospital.
Well starting now, that changes–at least for hospitals participating in Medicare and Medicaid (which is nearly all of them).
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.
“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”
This is a big step forward. I’m really excited that the rules don’t just expand our definition of family to include same-sex partners, they actually give patients the right to determine who visits them, regardless of their relationship.
Among other things, the rules impose new requirements on hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or other type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time.
I believe that we should be fighting for these types of privileges, which are often connected to our marital status, to be expanded instead to the people we choose, regardless of our relationship to them. Not just for hospital visitation, but also for health benefits, medical decision-making, wills, taxes, all of it.
The government, or hospital staff, shouldn’t be able to tell us who is legitimate enough to support us when we are sick. Only we can make those decisions. This is a really important step forward for patients rights.