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.