Federal regulations designed to protect the hospital visitation and decision making rights of patients and their families, with a particular focus on same-sex partners, came into effect this week.
The new regulations apply to all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs. As highlighted at the time, this does not create a new right to access but reinforces the current law that, if a same-sex spouse has been granted power of attorney or has been designated by the patient as having visitor rights, such rights must be respected or the hospital may face cuts in their funding.
The president was apparently moved by the story of Janice Langbehn who was refused access to partner Lisa Pond as she lay dying in a Miami hospital despite having the proper legal documents in place. With this in mind President Obama duly directed the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations protecting hospital visitation rights.
While these protections are limited in scope to work within the purview of the Defense of Marriage Act and do not patch all the holes in coverage that same-sex partners face, the changes will be welcomed by same-sex couples who, like Janice Langbehn and her family, faced being (illegally) prevented from seeing their ill spouse or partner.
It is critical to stress, though, that the regulations will only benefit same-sex couples if they have completed their advanced health care directives and taken other appropriate steps to declare their wishes.
For more information in how you can protect your visitation rights, please click here.
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