Friday, April 16, 2010

Presidential Memo Signed for Patient Rights

Last night, a story emerged from a memorandum issued to the Health and Human Services Secretary. The memo instructed her to draw up appropriate rules concerning visitation rights of hospital patients.

I say it is high time this was done.

The memo will, no doubt, be characterized as a new act of favoritism towards the gay community. The memo is more that that, though, and to characterize it otherwise is not fair. Let's look at the first paragraph of the memo:

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.

This is basic human compassion. Who hasn't visited a loved one in a hospital and not immediately felt the gratitude of the patient? Support of a loved one is critical in the recovery process. We are all human beings. Who could deny a sick person a gesture of kindness from a trusted and loved friend or partner?

This is not radical change, people. This is common sense decency. Yes, the gay community will be the largest beneficiary of the memo. So? Are members of the gay community lesser human beings? If you answer yes to that question, check yourself.

You may ask who else will benefit from this memo? Members of the religious community - the Catholic faith in general, with nuns and priests - and also just about everyone in specific. Heterosexual or homosexual, why should anyone be restricted to visits by only those recognized by law as 'family' or spouse? What about those without living legally recognized family? Why shouldn't dear friends be allowed to be their support community?

This memo won't change any laws and will not even be noticed, except by those for whom it is written. Hospitals receiving federal funding - Medicare and Medicaid - will be required to abide by the new guidelines. This allows loved ones of any description to carry out the health care wishes of patients.

Common sense and decent human compassion. For all.


srp said...

Can you clarify this last sentence... "This allows loved ones of any description to carry out the health care wishes of patients."? I didn't hear this story so cannot speak to the details... I agree with the visitation part and I don't know that my dad, who is a minister, has ever been refused entrance to visit with a sick church member or their family in the hospital. Recently, children have been banned from patient rooms in many hospitals, mainly because of the swine flu problem and the problem of infection... going both ways, to and from patients.

But, if this really means that loved ones of ANY DESCRIPTION can carry out their HEALTH CARE WISHES... wishes like not being resuscitated? Or not being put on a ventilator or being fed by naso-gastric tube? Perhaps this is not meant to go this far. If it does then we should ALL be sure we have advanced directives in place to concretely specify WHO we want making these decisions for us if we cannot.

But having someone there to sit and visit with you... I agree. When I had my surgery I had no family available and a couple of friends were there when I got back to the room. So, not sure what hospitals have banned people who are not immediate family.

Karen said...

From the directive, it is to allow those not married to their partner or those without legal definition of family to carry out their wishes. It allows unmarried partners or someone else close to you to be a person who can carry out a power of attorney, to speak for you with your doctor. And, yes, absolutely, this has to be done before a hospital stay. It would allow everyone to be prepared, in written word, for emergencies.

srp said...

I would hope there would still HAVE to be something written that designated this.. with all the appropriate witnesses, so that hospitals did not have to get between family members and friends who did not agree on a course of action. It is so important to have a living will that really lets everyone know exactly what you want. It isn't fair to anyone, family or friend, to have that kind of emotional decision and burden be put on them without the written wishes of the patient.

Karen said...

No arguments from me, Roxanne. I see it the same. And, I certainly agree, living wills are essential. Most hospitals now ask if you have one when you are admitted, if you are seriously ill. I know they did for my mom throughout her admittances and she's been gone since 2004.