Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights

Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights

President Obama on Thursday signed a memorandum requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney.

The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision.

If you think this doesn’t happen in your community, look at this story, from The University of Washington-affiliated Harborview Medical Center, in Seattle, Washington.

I lived in Seattle when this took place, and I remember how hard it was to believe that a family member could be denied access to a loved one who was dying. No family should ever go through this.

This is a great step forward to ending discrimination in health care, which has continued in many hospitals to this day.

But only to this day, because tomorrow it won’t be allowed anymore.


Thanks for sharing the good news! It's been long overdue. I too was in Seattle at that time and it broke my heart to learn about what happened to this family. I just don't understand the inhumanity to deny a dying person the comfort of the people who love them the most.

Thank you for the comment, Yin Ling!

I seem to recall (but someone, please correct me if I'm wrong) that the bias displayed by the hospital extended to the media – I recall it being reported as "woman drowns in basement," without any reference to the mis-treatment of the woman and her family in the hospital based on her minority status.

Beyond the bias that exists (and will continue to exist, just the behavior attached to it won't be allowed), the bigger picture for everyone is a change in the way hospitals think about an admission:

FROM: "we are admitting a patient, temporarily severing their support system" (through things like "visiting hours" and "pick one family member who we'll report status to")

TO: "we are admitting a patient with a support system that needs to be preserved and cared for, which will in turn, help the patient heal and help medical providers provide safe, quality care."

I think the extreme nature of the harm directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender patients in these situations will highlight the need for a change for all patients, and luckily, there are outstanding institutions like Medical College of Georgia and Cincinnati Childrens Hospital who have shown that this results in both better care AND better financial performance,


Ted Eytan, MD