The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has just issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that “Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals”. Sebelius also said that “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”

The new rules follow from an

In an April 15, 2010 Presidential Memorandum President Obama tasked HHS with developing standards for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals (including critical access hospitals) that would require them to respect the right of all patients to choose who may visit them when they are an inpatient of a hospital.

This memo came from an advocacy effort by Malecare’s The LGBT Cancer Project-Out With Cancer and several of our partner LGBT health organizations, The LGBT organizations working with Jackson Health System on this effort included the Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth, CenterLink, Equality Florida, Florida Together, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Lambda Legal, Miami Workers’ Center, Pride Center at Equality Park, SAVE Dade, and the Transgender Equality Rights Initiative.

The President’s memorandum instructed HHS to develop rules that would prohibit hospitals from denying visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It also directed that the rules take into account the need for a hospital to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances.

A key provision of the rules specifies that all visitors chosen by the patient (or his or her representative) must be able to enjoy “full and equal” visitation privileges consistent with the wishes of the patient (or his or her representative).

Among other things, the rules impose new requirements on hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or other type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time.

More information about the rules is available at the <a href=”http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/11/20101117a.html”>CMS website.</a>