Obama Says Hospitals Must Allow Visitation Rights

President Obama issued a memo last night instructing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to write rules that will allow patients to designate visitors at facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid. This move would benefit same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples, widowed adults, members of religious orders and others who want to have someone other than an immediate family member as a visitor or decision maker for medical care, notes the WSJ Health Blog.

From the White House:

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.

Read the whole memo here.

[Via WSJ Health Blog]