Website spotlight: Final rule pushes for equal hospital visitation and representation rights

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, December 30, 2011

On April 15, 2010, President Obama issued a moving presidential memorandum on hospital visitation and patient representation that began:

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean-a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.

Yet 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. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. 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…

[This means that] all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall.

In response to the presidential memorandum, on November 19, 2010, CMS published a final rule for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protects patients' right to choose their own visitors when they are in the hospital, specifically including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. CMS considered over 7,000 comments from individuals, patient advocates, the hospital community, and other healthcare facilities before it issued the final rule.

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