Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Bypass Hospital Homophobia/Discrimination

DISCLAIMER: The following is not meant to be legal advice. It is only some friendly suggestions for those of us who live in the United States.

I am a lesbian. I also am a health care professional. I have been reading horrible stories of people not being able to be at their loved one's bedside while they are in the hospital. Even more horrific than that, not being notified of the death of their partner, not being able to hold their hand as they were lying there dying. I would like to offer the following advice for those of you who are in same sex relationships and fear this kind of prejudice at a hospital.

1. Become your partner's "Medical Power of Attorney". All that it says is that if your partner becomes too ill to make their own decisions, you have the right to make their decisions for them. Go through an attorney to get this done professionally and legally and make plenty of copies. Each and every time one of you gets put in the hospital, make sure that you give them a copy. Make sure each and every RN knows that you are indeed the "POA".

They will be legally obligated to allow you at your partner's bedside.

2. Do not make your relationship a secret. Kindly and respectfully ask your primary Doctor and the RN who is taking care of you or your loved one if they have a problem with your relationship. If they say yes, ask if you can get a different health care professional to take care of you. This is your right.

3. It is important that the two of you be included in any major decisions. I don't mean blood draws or a CT scan. I do mean surgery or surgical procedures. Make sure that the patient makes that absolutely clear to the Doctor and the Nursing Staff...especially the Nursing Staff.

4. If it is an emergent medical procedure, ex: a procedure to help the patient breathe easier like a thorencentesis. Let the RN know that you want your partner notified immediately that this procedure is going to take place. They will follow your lead. If you want your partner included, they will tend to include them.

5. If you have any sort of issue whatsoever, ask to speak to the House Supervisor. If you do not get satisfaction, ask to speak to the Patient Advocate. You are the patient and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Your wishes need to be respected.

6. Do not approach the health care professionals with a "chip" on your shoulder. Don't be on the defensive, we are doing nothing wrong.

EX: I was taking care of a patient. I walked in and she and her wife were holding hands. She immediately let go of her hand and said, "We don't want to freak you out, everyone at this Catholic hospital is homophobic..." I replied with a smile, "Uh nope not everyone...." I later suggested that they not let go of holding hands and told them that I, too, am a lesbian. She apologized for being rather gruff with me. She said, "I just feel that I have to hid my relationship..." I cannot stress enough, let your relationship be known.

To summarize: Become your partner's Medical Power of Attorney. Don't make your relationship a secret. Show respect for the medical staff and don't be on the defensive. If you have any problems, report it to the Nursing Supervisor or the Patient Advocate. You deserve to be treated with respect also.

Feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer them.

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