Saturday, May 21, 2005

But If We Let Jim Visit Steve in the Hospital, Bob and Sue in the Next Town Will Have to Get Divorced!

Jason at Positive Liberty recounts news from Maryland -- the governor is caving into pressure to veto a bill called the Medical Decision Making Act. This bill would grant some very limited rights to same-sex couples. From the Washington Post:
Modeled after laws in California, Hawaii and other states, the legislation would have granted nearly a dozen rights to unmarried partners who register with the state. Among those: the right to be treated as an immediate family member during hospital visits, to make health care decisions for incapacitated partners and to have private visits in nursing homes.
Jason points out how this affects him personally -- seeing as he lives in MD and his biological family does not recognize his relationship with his partner.

The most outrageous part of all this are these stories documenting several cases in which couples had all the "proper" paperwork (power of attorney, wills, etc.) and were still prevented from making medical decisions and visiting one another in the hospital.

I couldn't sleep last night after reading these stories. I am too full of anger. How dare total strangers interfere with private, legal contracts created between two people? What is the point of offering contacts such as power of attorney for health care if they can be ignored at the option of a stranger? If they have no teeth?

I have had numerous arguments with my republican parents over these issues. They claim to be on the socially liberal side and don't really have a problem with gay marriage, yet they keep electing people who do, so I can't quite figure that out. Whenever I get angry and point out abuses like this, I always hear the same story. "You can get legal documents. You can make a will. You can make sure that your wishes are respected."

Well, apparently not always.

In my opinion, any doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional who pushes aside these types of documents should be sued for all they are worth and should lose their license to practice. It is not up to a doctor or nurse to decide who my family is. If I have documents specifying that Laura is to have decision-making power for me, then they had better honor it. I am waiting for all the "you-have-other-legal-options" people to speak up in support of this lawsuit, brought by a man who was prevented from visiting his dying partner, despite having power of attorney and other documents. The people insisting that these sorts of documents are sufficient should stand behind their word.

I am thankful that Laura and I did not encounter these problems when she ended up in the hospital a few years ago with the pseudotumor. Of course, she was conscious the entire time and it never got to the "family only" point.

Jason closes his post with this comment, which pretty much sums up my bitterness and anger at this sort of thing:
The most charitable thing I can say is that I do hope heterosexuals are getting some benefit from all of this, because gays and lesbians are clearly suffering. Equality Maryland documents some even more egregious cases of real-life refusal here. Many of them happened despite the individuals having taken legal steps like executing a will or a power of attorney, steps that we are told make marriage rights unnecessary or redundant. How any of this helps strengthen the heterosexual family is beyond me. Do episodes like these really give comfort or reassurance to faltering heterosexual relationships? I simply can't believe it
As I said in the title of my post, apparently straight people are so completely stupid as to believe that causing heartbreak to total strangers in hospitals will keep their own pathetic families intact. I have no respect for anyone who believes such things.

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