Friday, January 26, 2007

Dying Alone at a Hospital

According to 365 gay news: In Washington state, there was a recent flood. "Charlene Strong told how partner Kate Fleming got trapped in the basement studio where she ran an audio company. As the water rose she was unable to open the door to get out.

Rescuers finally broke through and rushed Fleming to an area hospital.

But at the hospital Strong was told told she could not be with her dying partner of nearly 10 years because she was not a relative. Finally officials relented when a family member interceded. Fleming died moments later."

This happened in Washington state, a very progressive state that allows same-sex adoption and will likely legislate civil unions or marriage soon. I would also venture to say this woman was lucky in that her dying partner's family allowed her into the hospital room. My experience working with gay men dying of AIDS is that families are not always so nice at this very difficult time. In fact, I experienced countless partners who were not only kept out of the hospital room, but were also thrown out of their houses when the houses weren't in their names.

In Georgia, we have no automatic legal rights to visit a dying loved one in the hospital because under the law and hospital policies, we are "legal strangers" to our partners. The only remedy we have is to have documents called Advanced Directives, but how many of us actually have those documents, and what happens when we have gone to the trouble and expense of creating the documents and we don't have them with us when it truly matters?

When we travel, do we carry them around with us? If one of us were suddenly in a car accident, do we have the documents in our cars, offices, etc.?

My family has gone to the expense of creating such documents, but I have to admit we rarely have them with us when we travel.

Married couples do have an automatic legal right to visit their loved ones in a hospital. So, when people say marriage doesn't matter, we really have to think about this when sometimes there will only be moments to hold our loved-one's hands.

1 comment:

~L said...

Our attorney advised us to shrink our Healthcare Power of Attorney down to a business card size and put it right behind our driver's license. That way we always have it on us. My partner and I carry all of our documents with us everywhere we go. Just like Amex...don't leave home without it!