New federal regulations allow LGBT patients to decide who can visit them in the hospital. The rules went into effect Jan. 18.
Hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid, which means the vast majority of hospitals in the nation, must now adhere to visitation decisions made by LGBT patients. Hospitals must also follow patients' wishes concerning who can make medical decisions on their behalf. Discrimination based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity, is specifically prohibited under the new rules.
The Department of Health and Human Services drafted the new rules last year, at the direction of the president, who issued a presidential memorandum on the issue in April 2010.
“LGBT people experience discrimination in many aspects of their lives, but it is perhaps at its worst during times of crisis,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT group. “We thank President (Barack) Obama and HHS Secretary (Kathy) Sebelius for recognizing the hardships LGBT people face and taking this important step toward ensuring that no one will be turned away from a partner’s hospital bedside again.”
“Other couples, no matter how they define themselves as families, won't have to go through what we went through, and I am grateful," said Janice Langbehn. She and her children were denied hospital access to Langbehn's partner, Lisa Pond, after she suffered an aneurysm and later died in 2007.
"The fact that the hospital did't let our children say good-bye to their mom ... That’s just something that will haunt me forever," Langbehn said.