Friday, April 16, 2010

Enhancement of Right for Non-Relatives Visiting the Sick

Yesterday the Obama Administration issued an executive order, directing his Secretary of Health to develop administrative rules granting same-sex couples visitation rights in the hospital. The order would also extend this right to widows/widowers who have no children and rely on friends and religious organizations for care and support. There is no immediate effect of the order, as it will take time for the agency to develop and write rules. The NY Times reported that White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, said Thursday night:

“By taking these steps, we can better protect the interests and needs of patients that are gay or lesbian, widows and widowers with no children, members of religious orders, or others for whom their loved ones are not always immediate relatives. Because all Americans should be able to have loved ones there for them in their time of need.”

While this is being promoted as a LGBT victory, as an attorney, I see may heterosexual couples who are together, but not married. Based on news reports, it appears that they would benefit from this order as well.

However, I would still advise any client over the age of 18 to complete a power of attorney for health care, a living will, and a power of attorney for finance, whereby they nominate which people they want making health and financial decisions in the event of their incapacitation. Even married couples need to take these measures. The more paperwork you have completed, the easier the access should be in a time of need.

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