MCC Reacts to President’s Memo Extending Hospital Visitation Rights to Same-sex Couples

Montrose Counseling Center applauds President Barack Obama’s Memorandum to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to draft rules to allow hospital patients the right to choose their visitors and designate surrogate decision makers for medical emergencies. The order is a significant step in validating same-sex relationships and will affect all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

According to the Memorandum, members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities “are often barred from the bedsides of the partners… unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”

“Perhaps the best way for the general public to understand the significance of this is to imagine the range of feelings they would experience if they were denied access to their spouse during a time in which their loved ones needed them most,” says Keville Ware, LCSW, HIV/AIDS Counseling Program Coordinator at Montrose Counseling Center “The inhumanity becomes clear when you think about the pain, distress and outrage that you would feel in the same position.”

Obama’s memo 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.”

As the HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator, Ware has witnessed clients struggle, “There are many accounts from the AIDS era of the 80s and 90s of same-sex partners and gay friends being denied visitation by hospitals and families. In the midst of this horrible illness, loved ones were not allowed to console or hold one another, to participate in care or healing, to even say final good-byes to someone with whom they had shared their lives.”

It’s important to note that many hospitals do respect the right of the patient to choose visitors and designate surrogate decision makers; however, reports of unfair treatment continue in some hospitals and by some hospital staff.

Ware adds that, even though this is a step in the right direction, “patients and their partners may still fear discrimination if they are forced to disclose that they identify as GLBT in order to take advantage of the policy when it takes effect.”