Friday, February 6, 2009

A gay issue is everyone's issue and injustice

This is a very sad story about a lesbian partner who was denied access to her dying partner's hospital room per the usual hospital policy about who is a close relative.

I totally agree with her that this is a terrible situation and unjust. I think, and know from experience, that this is not just a gay issue (though I think it is then doubly hurtful). Here's a story and then my thoughts.

In the latter 1980's a work colleague who I knew slightly was so terribly mugged, bashed repeatedly in the head, that for a while people thought it was an actual "hit." Turns out it was not, just a violent urban teen who mugged him as he was alone on the train station platform at night, waiting for his live in girlfriend to pick him up. He survived, barely, but was touch and go in a coma for a while. Well, his girlfriend was not allowed in to see him, even though they lived together! His ex-wife had to be called in as only she was allowed into his room.

We all know that children too are kept out of visiting parents, out of fear of spreading bacteria, they say in their hospital policies. (Yeah, like children are the sources of the killing bacteria in hospitals, not.)

So I can totally relate to how dreadfully this lesbian lady was treated and it is totally unjust but as I opined in my title, I think it's an "every person" issue, but recognize the special hurtfulness when it happened to this gay partner.

My suggestion is that hospitals think about accepting a visit permission card that is like a donor card. Just as people can carry a donor card giving advance permission for organ donation (even able to specify which organs are permitted and which are not), I think a hospital visit privileges card should be developed by some health advocate society on the same modeling. Thus each gay partner, in this example, could have had in their wallets this card that says as simply as "If something happens to ..... and.... is in the hospital...... these persons......are in advance requested to be given permission to visit."

What used to be done for good reasons (limit visitors for privacy purposes and for sanitation reasons) is now cruel and out of date. Hospitals however are liability shy (though they don't seem to mind molesters on their actual staffs) so I think this type of an advance permission card could really help. I think gay organizations should pick up on my suggestion and start to carry one, as it can only help and can't hurt if sadly it is needed in such a crisis. It would certainly give you more dignity and raise awareness and hopefully avoid such unjust embarrassments.

Organizations for the elderly might also look at this idea, since many elderly are couples and dear companions without marrying, and it would not be right if one of them was excluded in a such a similar situation.