Yesterday, I learned that President Obama had ordered “that nearly all hospitals allow patients to say who has visitation rights and who can help make medical decisions, including gay and lesbian partners“:
The White House on Thursday released a statement by Obama instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments.
The designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now enjoy, Obama’s instructions said. It said Medicare-Medicaid hospitals, which include most of the nation’s facilities, may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation,gender identity or disability.
While I’m pleased with the result, I’m concerned about the process.
First, I believe any individual should be able to designate people who can visit him when he’s been hospitalized. I also believe private hospitals should be free to set their own policies. And I question whether the president has the authority to do so. And if he does, wonder what kind of precedent would this set. Will a future president impose other such mandates on hospitals?
Here, we see a “conflict” between the freedom of hospitals to set their own policies and the ability of their “clients” to choose their visitors. In most cases, the conflict never materializes. But, it has; individuals on their death beds have been deprived of the company of their beloved, even after writing “‘advanced health care directive[s]'” asking for full visitation rights for” said individual.
I don’t like it when the government mandates a private institution to do anything, but I do like what this mandate accomplishes.
I’m also wondering if Obama is doing this because he needs to “throw a bone” to the gay community, given how he left us out of Obamacare and how we still haven’t seen a legislative timeline for repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT). Perhaps, he issued this order to placate gay activists as he knows he won’t be able to repeal DADT before the fall elections.
I do hope I’m wrong about that last fear.