Alex Blaze

North Carolina expands hospital visitation

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 24, 2008 2:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: gay rights, hospital visitation rights, North Carolina, partners

North Carolina hospitals will have to let in more visitors:

A new statewide rule will help ensure that same-sex partners and other loved ones will be treated the same as immediate family.

The rule adds a provision to the Patients' Bill of Rights, stating: "A patient has the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient's immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient." The right applies to hospitals statewide.

This is a great example of a way a right traditionally associated with marriage (having a partner visit in the hospital) can be expanded for the benefit of same-sex couples as well as for other important relationships.

It's pretty silly that only immediate family can have full visitation rights in a hospital. Just because someone was born into the same family as you doesn't mean that you want to see them when you're sick, just as people in the hospital might want to see many people to whom they aren't married or related, including but not limited to same-sex partners.

I don't know if this was a result of an outdated form of tribalism, that the only people on "your side" are those who are narrowly defined as "family," but it's good to see the law updated to help patients feel more comfortable. I hope other states follow North Carolina's example.

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Alex, I appreciate this new expansion of rights but it doesn't quite give non married couples the same rights as married ones. For example, if a married man goes into the hospital and is in a coma his wife can visit him in the ICU without having her husband awake to approve it and without having to obtain specific documentation saying so before hand.

If an unmarried person goes into the hospital and is in a coma their partner won't be admitted unless they have put some legal document together in advance that proves the patient's approval. I haven't seen what pre-arranged documentation the state will require for unmarried couples to gain access in the case where their partner is incapacitated and unable to grant approval by I assume it will have to be a legal contract of some sort. What cost and inconvenience will be associated with getting this document to allow the most BASIC of rights that costs absolutely NO ONE absolutely ANYTHING.

Do you not support marriage equality for gays and lesbians? I found your last sentence to be a bit confusing. I realize that you're saying that it's the "rights traditionally associated with marriage" for gay couples that you support most but your odd, and precise phraseology seems to give the impression that you aren't for gays having the right to actually marry as long as they can get the rights through “separate but equal” arrangements or through piecemeal legislation like this that will require unmarried couples to jump through hundreds of costly and time consuming hoops to get just some of the rights that straight couples can get with the stroke of a pen. I support the incremental approach to marriage equality but I won’t be satisfied until gay couples win the exact same rights that straight couples are given.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 24, 2008 11:18 PM

I belive that Alex was applauding any soultion (however incremental) that improves the rights of partners.

I have said before. Get a lawyer of good reputation. Keep a copy of the relevant paperwork in the trunk of your car. Be certain that the doctor places in the chart that you are to have access to your partner 24/7 or find a different doc.

I have said for years, Gay people have to be smarter and better prepared and more careful than unthinking heteros. When my lover was transferred to a second hospital for a stint implant his paperwork did not follow and a snot of a receptionist told me I had no right to be with him before surgery.

"My lawyers name is XXXXX and he loves to sue hospitals, now get someone on the phone." Miraculously a grizzled, kindly nun arrives of the "Mother Teresa" variety to calm me down and escort me to my partner.

That is why I say have a set of docs in the trunk of your car in the States and that is why I now live in Thailand where I am regarded as partner for matters of medical care.

Zeke - Not against the gay marriage. Just sayin' that a) it's something in the right direction and that's good, b) the NC law allows anyone to go in who's not a conjugal partner if the patient chooses, like friends, caregivers, god parents, etc, and c) I hope other states do the same thing, in that they expand hospital visitation to include not only same-sex partners, but also other people patients would like to have visit them.

During the very worst of the AIDS epidemic, I was living in Los Angeles, and I heard of many examples of long-time partners of dying persons being denied access to visit them, but relatives who hadn't spoken to the person in years being allowed to.

Documentation as to who should be allowed to visit should be a part of the documents about a living will - and we should all have them, not just the young folks. We all should have these documents in our files at our doctor's office, at home, and the hospital we usually go to in an emergency. It's good to have the paperwork indicating when to pull the plug, and who you want with you when they do.

I don't have a medical background, but I've seen so many instances of young people who were severely injured. I suggest that it's always best to have the documents long before you need them, and then update them every year or so as needed.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 27, 2008 10:21 AM

shakay, Kudos! Between the two of us we may just have saved a lot of heartache. Similarly, couples who have children (Hi Sara, Hi Bil) should have up to date paperwork as well. Is it?