President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum yesterday to his Health and Human Services Secretary ordering hospitals which receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to let patients say who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments, including gay and lesbian partners.
Gay rights groups are calling the move a major advance for the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The New York Times reports that in the past, some hospitals had barred bedside visits with people with whom they had spent decades because they did not hold the medical power of attorney for a patient.
The presidential memo says designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now have, according to The Associated Press. The memo reads:
"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. 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."