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Hospital visits to extend to same-sex couples

January 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Some new rules on hospital visitation go into effect Tuesday. The new regulations were ordered by the Obama administration and deal with visitation issues affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.Many hospitals have a relatives-only policy when it comes to seeing certainly critically ill patients. Gay-rights activists have fought for years to gain equal rights and equal access for same-sex couples. The law that goes into effect will now allow that.

Imagine you're hospitalized in critical condition and your loved ones aren't allowed in to see you. It happened at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. A woman was dying and her partner of 17 years and their children were kept out.

"It's horrible and shocking, especially nowadays when we think we've advanced so much and there's these horrible rules that need to be changed," said West Hollywood resident Marcus Ketty.

And they are changing. Because of that case, the president issued new regulations regarding hospital visitation rights. Gay-rights activists say some hospitals often wouldn't allow visitors who weren't related to a patient by blood or marriage. Now a patient can designate anyone they want to visit them regardless of their sexual orientation or status.

"I have seen firsthand how the previous laws have affected people," said West Hollywood resident Myk Browne. "I know people who were in the hospital and couldn't have their partner come and visit them, and just how devastating that is."

And some people said some hospitals won't allow a same-sex partner to make medical decisions for a patient who might be incapacitated.

"It's not the hospital's choice, it's the patient's choice and they should respect their wishes," said Ketty.

"I think it frees up restrictions and gives the citizen more power to make their intelligent choices and logical choices," said West Hollywood resident Abdul Moghrabi.

In the Miami case, the patient's partner was denied access even though all of the legal forms were sent to the hospital. People hope the new law will stop that from ever happening again.

"I think this bodes well for the future of the gay community and for the country, that we're on the right path," said Browne. "That the idea that all Americans are equal and we all share the same rights is truly coming to fruition, and that's a beautiful thing."

But activists say they will only get these rights if the new law is properly enforced. It goes into effect Tuesday.