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Posts Tagged ‘HHS’

That Didn’t Take Long!

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Earlier today, I wrote that the right-wing fringe hadn’t expressed opposition to Obama’s humane Memorandum directing HHS to create rules requiring hospitals to respect the decisional autonomy of their patients, by letting them choose their own visitors — even though one major effect of any such rule would be to respect same-sex couples.

Now, blundering in from the periphery comes Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who denounces the rule for a confusing mash of reasons, apparently including general opposition to Obama doing anything relating to health care (a good chance to oppose HCR, in another context), and some idea that the move contributes to a redefinition of marriage. But then there’s this exchange, towards the end of an on-line exchange where Sprigg was buffeted about by a score of e-mail conversants. Watch him just give up the ghost:

Mr. Sprigg — I can hardly see how someone could deny a hospitalized person the compassionate and therapeutic benefits of a visitation by their partner.

In opposing this measure, aren’t you putting your dogma before your humanity? Are you seeking to publicize your agenda? You really need to examine the question: what would Jesus do?

Peter Sprigg: Let me re-emphasize that I do NOT oppose allowing people to visit their homosexual partners in the hospital. I just think that provisions to allow that should be based on the general principal of patient self-determination, and not based on a redefintion of “family” or “marriage.”

The President’s memorandum actually does appeal to that principle, and is not focused only on same-sex couples.

So why not just leave it alone? Because the Family Research Council — which, to reanimate the Coffee Talk Lady, is “neither pro-family, nor based on sound research, nor a council” — can’t resist piping up whenever the common humanity of gay and lesbian people is respected, however meagerly. Let’s not forget that these fringies do us a favor with their tone-deaf absolutism.


Not Just for Gays: Hospital Visits and Respect for Autonomy

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Last night’s surprise action by President Obama was a heartening and welcome development. In a two-page memo to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Obama requested that the Secretary promulgate rules that will increase the chances that the wishes of lesbian and gay hospital patients respecting visitation and decision-making will be respected rather than ignored. From the memorandum:

It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

So far, I’ve not seen any criticism of this move from the right. I don’t expect much (but please let me know if you find any), because mostly everyone has conceded this point: “Oh, I’m in favor of gay people being able to visit each other in the hospital.” It’s an easy bone to throw us to make homophobia seem tolerant, and it has the benefit of feeding into the perception they’re trying to sustain that gay people are “sick.” So it’s a brilliant, unassailable — and overdue — move by the President.

What little criticism I’ve seen has come from the gays our ownselves. Here’s Andrew Sullivan:

There is something about the well-meaning liberal mind that is often admirably eager to help the needy, but balks at offering the recipients what we really want: simple equality. The latest move – giving Obama an easy win, the gay lobby a role in mediating the transaction – perpetuates the victimology that sustains the Democrats and their interest groups.

If we had marriage equality, we’d need no-one’s compassion. We’d just be able to live our lives. Why won’t the president help us do that?

As someone who’s written both windy law review articles and blog posts arguing for marriage equality for the past decade plus, I’m not going to disagree about the importance of “simple equality” which would make a great number of other issues disappear. (And it really is simple.) But read the Memorandum closely and you’ll see that the requested change goes far beyond marriage equality: The idea is to allow people to designate the person of their choice (either “on the spot” or through advance directives) to visit them in the hospital.

Yes, this will help those of us in same-sex relationships to avoid some of the horrors that our community has suffered, such as the inhumane and just inexplicable case that unfolded in Florida recently. But it will also help people in all kinds of relationships that the law doesn’t recognize, and never will. That respect for individual autonomy and decision-making in the most challenging circumstances is the great accomplishment of this Memorandum, and it shouldn’t go unacknowledged.

One more point: There’s a limit to what a President can accomplish all by himself, but these Executive Orders and Memoranda should be coming fast and furious. Obama could have issued this Memorandum immediately after taking office. While that would have been too late for Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond in Florida, there have doubtless been many others since January 2009 who could have been at their partners’ side during those terrible final hours. What a needless shame.