PDA

View Full Version : What's the straight dope on hospital visitations


El Zagna
11-13-2004, 09:09 AM
In the debate over gay marriage the issue of hospital visitation keeps coming up. Sometimes you'll even hear it claimed that gay people can't even visit their life partners in the hospital. :dubious:

Obviously there are some reasonable restrictions on who can visit and when, but what are they, and who makes the rules? Do various states have laws requiring hospitals to refuse visitation to certain people, or is this typically hospital policy?

WhyNot
11-13-2004, 09:39 AM
If the person you're visiting is conscious and can communicate, she can request the presence of anyone she likes, anytime she likes. The hospital may tell you it's "against their policy" to have visitors outside of visiting hours, but "against policy" and "against the law" are two different things. They may limit the number of people in the room if it's a health concern or you're disturbing other patients, but they may not tell a specific person they have to leave if the patient wishes them to stay.

Once the person is unconscious is where things become sticky. Family members who don't like a gay partner can be successful in getting them kicked out unless the patient has made it very, very clear in writing that they want that person to stay. This can be done by giving the partner limited or durable power of attorney to make medical decisions, or sometimes hospitals simply have "I want this person to be here" forms to sign.

The part that gets gay partners really worried is if their spouse is admitted unconscious in an emergency or is never communicative about their wishes. Having something in writing prepared ahead of time helps, but a nasty family can fight anything except a power of attorney.

I used to tell the hospital I was the sister of whomever I wanted to visit, until I become a minister. Now, as long as have on my little "clergy" badge, they let me go anywhere, anytime.

El Zagna
11-13-2004, 10:29 AM
Once the person is unconscious is where things become sticky. Family members who don't like a gay partner can be successful in getting them kicked out unless the patient has made it very, very clear in writing that they want that person to stay. Of course this scenario could occur with a straight couple who lived together for many years but never formalized the relationship with a marriage.

This brings up a follow up question. If the wife and parents of an unconscious patient despise each other, and they don't want the other party in the same room, is it the wife's wishes that take precedence? Again I assume this would be individual hospital policy, but would most hospitals just say screw the rest of the family - the wife trumps?

Northern Piper
11-13-2004, 10:34 AM
If the person you're visiting is conscious and can communicate, she can request the presence of anyone she likes, anytime she likes. The hospital may tell you it's "against their policy" to have visitors outside of visiting hours, but "against policy" and "against the law" are two different things. They may limit the number of people in the room if it's a health concern or you're disturbing other patients, but they may not tell a specific person they have to leave if the patient wishes them to stay.Cite, please?

In the case of a private hospital, they have all the rights of other private property owners, which includes the legal right to exclude others from their property. On what basis can the patient override that basic legal property right of the hospital?

scott evil
11-13-2004, 10:42 AM
I'm marrying my same-sex partner in exactly one week. The hospital thing has always concerned me, even though the attitudes up here regarding same-sex marriage/partnerships are obviously enlightened. I asked the minister who's marrying us if some kind of mini marriage certificate exists (small, like a birth certificate) that we can both carry and show to whomever if needed, and apparently such a document is available. To be on the safe side, we'll be obtaining them.

bnorton, AFAIK once married the spouse is the legal next-of-kin, not the parents. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, or if that isn't always the case.

WhyNot
11-13-2004, 01:14 PM
Cite, please?

In the case of a private hospital, they have all the rights of other private property owners, which includes the legal right to exclude others from their property. On what basis can the patient override that basic legal property right of the hospital?
My information comes from a medical social worker, backed up by a cardiac care nurse and a critical care nurse. I asked them to come up with something in writing that I can link, and they are looking for it. I'll have it posted just as soon as I can.

t-bonham@scc.net
11-13-2004, 01:44 PM
In 2000, Robert Daniel fell gravely ill, and was brought to the emergency room at the University of Maryland hospital. Despite notice in Daniel's medical records and his partner's statements to emergency room staff that Flanigan was Daniel's family and legal agent for health care decisions, Bill was barred from seeing Robert.

The hospital blocked any communication between Robert and Bill, and continued to do so as Robert slipped into unconsciousness and died, leaving him alone and without comfort, support and solace during his final hours. Bill was repeatedly forced to watch with mounting anguish and humiliation as families of other patients arrived and were quickly escorted in to see their loved ones. Despite having prepared legal documents, such as a medical power of attorney, and even bringing copies with on their trip, after arriving at the hospital, Bill was never allowed to speak to Robert before his death.

In 2002, a jury found that the hospital had the legal right to do this under Maryland law.

So domestic partner registration, spending a lot to get legal documents like power of attorney, and carrying copies of all that with you, just doesn't matter. So what's a gay couple have to do to protect themselves?

cite (http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/cases/record?record=174)

picunurse
11-13-2004, 02:06 PM
Cite, please?

In the case of a private hospital, they have all the rights of other private property owners, which includes the legal right to exclude others from their property. On what basis can the patient override that basic legal property right of the hospital?
The rules for hospitals vary from house to house. You are, I'm sure, correct about the rights of private hospitals, however, they depend on the community for support, why would they bite the hand that feeds them? The easiest way to get your name on a malpractice suit is to piss off a family.
Over the past decade visiting rules have loosened in most institutions. Several studies were done in the '70s & '80s showing, among other things, that critically ill people healed faster when they had loved ones close by. Sorry, I don't have the studies anymore.

Seven
11-13-2004, 06:32 PM
While there is a bunch of talk about partners visiting partners in the hospital, I think sometimes the family is over looked in this conversation.

I was raised by my father and his partner (James). I was very close with James and considered him my "other" dad. He was a very supportive and important part of my life.

James got sick and was admitted to the hospital. Over the course of several days he fell into a coma and was like that for 4-5 days before he died.

I planned to meet my father after work at the hospital and we would visit James in his room. I, not being related to James, couldn't go into the ICU by myself because I wasn't "family". I suppose James could have put me on a list of some sort which said "sure, this guys ok" but that's hard to do after you fall into a coma. Before you fall into a coma it just isn't something one normally thinks about.

So here I am waiting for my father at the hospital and I'm not allowed to go sit by the side of my "other dad" during that time. My father ends up being about an hour late (got stuck in traffic or something, I don't remember). By the time he arrived we find James has just died twenty or so minutes before.

If James was my biological father I could have been at his side when he died.

I don't know if I could even explain how much that hurt. Not only was my father and James' relationship considered invalid, but the relationship between James and myself was as well.

Considering the staff understood the situation and how they saw my father deflate when told the news of James, they knew right away how much my father loved him. It took a little doing and several people dashed around pushing for an approval from the higher-ups. The rule of the hospital was only family, but they bent it for us. It just so happens James was in a hospital on Capitol Hill - smack dab in the heart of the gay community in Seattle. If we had been in podunk redneckville it might have played out different.

But the both of us did end up spending a few minutes in the room with James to say our goodbyes.

Moirai
11-13-2004, 07:07 PM
A couple I know has spent a lot of time and money on durable power of attorney, etc, because one of the women was hospitalized briefly. They told her it was either a brain tumor or a stroke. If her partner hadn't also been a nurse with ID, she might not have gotten in to see her. because of family drama, they knew that they had to get somethihng legal in writing as soon as possible.

Karen said it felt awful to be setting everything up in case she died at 30, but now feels it was worth it. However, the earlier post about all that work going down the toilet scares me.

doreen
11-13-2004, 07:22 PM
Of course this scenario could occur with a straight couple who lived together for many years but never formalized the relationship with a marriage.

Sure it could. But that straight couple had the option of marrying - they chose not to. Right now, gay couples don't have that option.

I think rules about visiting are hospital policies, not laws. But even leaving out the "parents don't want the partner to visit scenario", there are policies that allow only family members to visit certain patients- usually those in ICU's. There are maternity floors which have a policy of allowing the father to visit the mother nearly all the time (when I had my kids, it was from 8am to 10pm) There are policies that allow parents to remain with their hospitalized children outside of visiting hours. Hospitals don't generally check ID's and birth certificates to make sure that the man and woman taking turns staying in little Timmy's room are actually his mother and father, not one parent and a stepparent, or one parent and a significant other. or that the man in the room all day really is the baby's father. But they can pretty sure (in most places, at least) that two people of the same sex are not both Timmy's parents.

El Zagna
11-13-2004, 07:35 PM
Sure it could. But that straight couple had the option of marrying - they chose not to. Right now, gay couples don't have that option. Sure. Remember this is GQ not GD. I don't have an agenda here, I'm just trying to get the facts.

I'm going to guess that hospitals in general will be way ahead of the government in recognizing the legitimacy and importance of a same-sex partner. The issue of who gets to visit a dying patient goes way beyond gay marriage. I would think that anyone who was in such a desperate condition would want the companionship of their closest friend whether that be a spouse or plain old friend. I just don't understand the resistance to allowing non family members.

mangeorge
11-13-2004, 07:55 PM
Cite, please?

In the case of a private hospital, they have all the rights of other private property owners, which includes the legal right to exclude others from their property. On what basis can the patient override that basic legal property right of the hospital?
Cite, please.
On what basis can a hospital, private or not, override the basic rights of a patient? Can they also exclude the patients own doctor?
Peace,
mangeorge

AHunter3
11-13-2004, 08:04 PM
::raises hand::

New Yorker here, presumably modern liberal blue-state person. Unmarried straight person with partner. Just was in the ER a bit over a week ago for going pale green and passing blood all of a sudden, and at hospital just yesterday for a colonoscopy.

a) The ER staff ran my girlfriend out of the ER but if we'd been married she could have stayed at my side.

b) At the hospital I lied and identified her as my "spouse" and we also had paperwork drawn up a living will and a health care proxy each identifying her as the person who is to make any decisions that have to be made if I'm unable to make them, and also specifying that it is my intent that she have any access to me that is permitted to nonmedical personnel.

In short, yes it is a problem.

Ferret Herder
11-13-2004, 08:34 PM
On what basis can a hospital, private or not, override the basic rights of a patient? Can they also exclude the patients own doctor?
Depends on what you mean by 'exclude' - if this doctor doesn't have priviledges to practice medicine at that particular hospital, then the doctor can't order any tests, that sort of thing. I'm not sure if a hospital can/would refuse to let the doctor at least see the patient. My 'cite' is from several years of working in medical centers and filling out huge piles of paperwork for the doctors I've worked for, requesting priviledges at various hospitals.

Ferret Herder
11-13-2004, 08:40 PM
a) The ER staff ran my girlfriend out of the ER but if we'd been married she could have stayed at my side.

b) At the hospital I lied and identified her as my "spouse" and we also had paperwork drawn up a living will and a health care proxy each identifying her as the person who is to make any decisions that have to be made if I'm unable to make them, and also specifying that it is my intent that she have any access to me that is permitted to nonmedical personnel.
Earlier this year, my sister-in-law took her long-term boyfriend to the hospital when he was spitting up blood. He had liver failure due to alcoholism, and the doctor in the ICU said they needed to contact his family, as he was comatose and it was questionable whether he'd live more than a day. He had been estranged from his parents for years. My SIL identified herself as his fiancee in hopes of not being excluded from the ICU, and fortunately the hospital staff accepted this, and she was made the primary contact for the doctors to pass on health care information, as well as the person who would make decisions about his health care.

He did pull through, and my SIL said that she'd always thought they didn't need to get married because it was 'just a piece of paper' and it didn't mean anything. Well, marriage gives you quite a few legal rights that you can't bet on all the time otherwise.

aruvqan
11-13-2004, 10:23 PM
Of course this scenario could occur with a straight couple who lived together for many years but never formalized the relationship with a marriage.

This brings up a follow up question. If the wife and parents of an unconscious patient despise each other, and they don't want the other party in the same room, is it the wife's wishes that take precedence? Again I assume this would be individual hospital policy, but would most hospitals just say screw the rest of the family - the wife trumps?

I know for a fact that my stepmonster-in-law and I detest each other intensly, but I wouldn't prevent her from visiting mrAru. She wouldn't be allowed to make any decisions as to his medical treatment [neener, neener, i have every possible power of attorney you can get...hell before he hit his final enlistment, I probably could have re-enlisted him for himself :D ]

If she tried to have me barred from the hospital, she would get an interesting visit from a lawyer explaining to her exactly why she can't bar me from the hospital...and then she would have to face me and I am not a shrinking violet by any stretch of the imagination.

mangeorge
11-14-2004, 12:07 AM
Depends on what you mean by 'exclude' - if this doctor doesn't have priviledges to practice medicine at that particular hospital, then the doctor can't order any tests, that sort of thing. I'm not sure if a hospital can/would refuse to let the doctor at least see the patient. My 'cite' is from several years of working in medical centers and filling out huge piles of paperwork for the doctors I've worked for, requesting priviledges at various hospitals.
When my second daughter was born her mom didn't have time to get to the scheduled hospital. It turned out that her doctor didn't have priviledges there. But he "supervised" (delivered) the baby, with a staff (non-ped) doctor standing by. It was unusual, but not unheard of. This was 30 years ago.
My request for a cite was for Northern Piper's claim that a private hospital could arbitrarily exclude a patient's visitor. Whether said hospital would, or not, is immaterial. Property rights are far from inviolable, thank god.

TeaElle
11-14-2004, 01:21 AM
When my second daughter was born her mom didn't have time to get to the scheduled hospital. It turned out that her doctor didn't have priviledges there. But he "supervised" (delivered) the baby, with a staff (non-ped) doctor standing by. It was unusual, but not unheard of. This was 30 years ago.
My request for a cite was for Northern Piper's claim that a private hospital could arbitrarily exclude a patient's visitor. Whether said hospital would, or not, is immaterial. Property rights are far from inviolable, thank god.
Ah, but there's a large difference between a patient's chosen doctor and a patient's chosen visitors. Doctors who are not privileged in a given hospital are not covered by malpractice insurance in that hospital. By limiting what non-privileged doctors are permitted to do, hospitals aren't trumping the rights of patients nearly so much as they are protecting themselves and the unprivileged doctors from lawsuits that would have no insurance protection behind them and they're protecting patients from doctors who may not be up to the standards of the institution.

A hospital certainly can demand that a person leave their premises; if a patient's visitor refuses to leave after visiting hours, is intoxicated or otherwise creating a disturbance, if the visitor is interfering with care (especially in an emergency situation), if the visitor is sabotaging care by bringing the patient food or drugs that they are not permitted to have, of course the hospital can ask the person to leave and, if they refuse, use security or the police to force them out of the building.

ouryL
11-14-2004, 03:42 AM
Cite, please?

In the case of a private hospital, they have all the rights of other private property owners, which includes the legal right to exclude others from their property. On what basis can the patient override that basic legal property right of the hospital?

Hospital is a place of public accomedation.

mangeorge
11-14-2004, 05:02 PM
Sigh!
I know all that, TeaElle. The point of contention is whether a hospital can exclude a visitor based simply on that hospital's property rights, as Northern Piper Any hospital, public or private, can evict a visitor in the situations you describe. :)
Sorry I didn't make myself clear.