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Hospital Visitation Directives Preserve Partners’ Rights

Although it is hard to believe that hospitals and medical personnel would prohibit same-sex partners from being together in the hospital, the reality is many couples have experienced this discrimination.

Heterosexual couples are not questioned whether they are married or not; on the other hand same sex couples must provide the hospital some documentation of their relationship to hospital officials before allowing the significant other to participate in the partner’s care.

Even with documentation like marriage certificates or registered domestic partnership, LGBT partners are often forced to plead their case for visitation with hospital officials. Same-sex couples must not rely on marriage, civil union or domestic partnership to ensure that they will be permitted to visit their loved one. A hospital visitation directive or authorization can stand on its own or be part of a living will or health care proxy. But no matter how the document is written, it is a legally binding document that will ensure partners can be together during medical emergencies.

Empower a Partner to Make Medical Decisions

A medical power of attorney, also called a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare, is a legal document that names a person who can make medical decision if a person is incapacitated. It is especially critical for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to know that if you do not have an Advance Directive for Health Care naming your partner or a friend as your agent, the hospitals and courts will look to your closest biological family member to make health care decisions for you, and your partner or friend will have no legal right to make such decisions, or in some cases, to even visit you in the hospital. Without this document, your partner or friend will also not be able to claim your body after death or direct the disposition of your remains.

For those who want to ensure that the person closest to them is the one making medical decisions, a health care proxy is essential for naming who will make medical decisions in a time of crisis. The proxy must include a hospital visitation directive if a separate one has not been created.

Choose Who Will Oversee Financial Matters

Like many of the documents same-sex couples need, a financial power of attorney is important to designate who will be in charge of financial matters in case of medical emergencies or incapacitating illness. Partners without a financial power of attorney will be at the mercy of the court to appoint a guardian. Again, the courts will consider the blood relatives to be the first in line to manage the finances of the partner, even if you have a different choice. 

Until same-sex couples are afforded all the same rights as other married couples, it is necessary for LGBT partners to protect their wishes and their partners from discriminatory practices.

A Living Will or Advance Directive is Important

A living will, or advance directive, is a legal document that outlines what types of life-sustaining measures can be used if necessary and which measures are not wanted. This document can be important to same-sex couples and persons living with HIV because it outlines end-of-life choices that may be contested by one person’s family members. In addition to having a living will, each partner should discuss their end-of-life choices with family members to avoid objections later on.

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