Obama Administration Finalizes New Rules on ‘Equal Visitation Rights’ for Same-Sex Partners of Hospital Patients

By Susan Jones | November 18, 2010 | 8:32 AM EST

Phoenix Baptist Hospital is one of 5 hospitals in Arizona run by Abrazo Health. The hospital's visitor policy is inclusive of everyone unless the patient is at high risk for infection or if there are security concerns for an injured crime victim. (Photo Courtesy of Abraso Health)

(CNSNews.com) - In another bow to the homosexual community, the Obama administration on Wednesday issued news rules for hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid: Patients must be allowed to say who may visit them, and that includes same-sex partners.

The new rules stem from President Obama’s directive of April 15, 2010, in which he instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that would prohibit those hospitals from denying visitation on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The president said the rules must also take into account the need for a hospital to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances.

Homosexual advocacy groups have complained about same-sex partners being barred from the hospital rooms by relatives or even by hospital personnel who frown on homosexuality.

“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 on Wednesday, after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued the new rules.

“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.”

The rules require hospitals to have written policies and procedures detailing patients’ visitation rights, as well as the circumstances under which the hospitals may restrict visitors based on reasonable clinical needs.

Among other things, the rules will require 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), as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time.

“These rules put non-clinical decisions about who can visit a patient out of the hands of those who deliver care and into the hands of those who receive it,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick.

“While we still have miles to go in making care more patient-centered, these rules make it easier for hospitals to deliver on some of the fundamental tenets of patient-centered care—care that recognizes and respects the patient as an individual with unique needs, who treated with dignity and granted the power of informed choice.”

As CNSNews.com previously reported, the new rules won't change much. Hospital officials and family advocacy groups told CNSNews.com that federal and state laws already allow individuals to name whomever they want as a medical decision-maker; and most hospitals allow patients to have whatever visitors they wish.

“Frankly, I’d be surprised if you find any hospital that tells you they only allow family members to visit the patients,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, told CNSNews.com in April.

See earlier story:
Obama’s Order on Hospital Visitation Doesn’t Change Much, But Pleases Homosexual Activists Nevertheless  (19 April 2010)