Posteado por: tucidides | 16 abril 2010

Obama Widens Medical Rights for Same-Sex Partners

Published: April 15, 2010

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Thursday ordered his health secretary to issue new rules aimed at granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners, and making it easier for gays and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

The White House announced the rule changes in a memorandum released Thursday night. In it, the president said the new rules will affect any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, the government programs to cover the elderly and the poor.

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for each other. But he say gays and lesbians are “uniquely affected” because they are often barred from visiting partners with whom they have spent decades.

Several states have tried to put an end to discrimination against same-sex couples, and Mr. Obama said he intended to build on those efforts. He said the new rules will make clear that designated visitors should enjoy visiting privileges that are no more restrictive than those enjoyed by immediate family members.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he would fight for the rights of gays and lesbians, but he has been under pressure since the beginning of his presidency to be a stronger advocate for their issues.
Many gays and lesbians grew disenchanted with what they viewed as his foot-dragging on reversing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that bars gays from serving openly in the military. The president said in his State of the Union address this year that he intended to move to overturn the policy, and his administration has been taking steps to do so.

Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues, said that while the memorandum on its own does not grant any new rights, it “does draw attention to the very real and tragic situations many gays and lesbians face when a partner is hospitalized.”

Ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to find a better way to handle such situations, Mr. Socarides said, is “the kind of thing the gay community was hoping Obama would do right after he was inaugurated.”

The memorandum is intended to “help ensure that atients will be able to face difficult times in hospitals with compassion, dignity and respect,” a 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.”




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