Washington: US President Barack Obama has ordered hospitals to grant visitation rights to gay and lesbians, including for non-family visitors.
Obama`s memorandum to the Department of Health and Human Services banned discrimination in visits to any hospital receiving federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid social insurance programs for the elderly and the poor.
The move sought to end a common practice by hospitals that only allow family members related to the patient by blood or marriage and instead allow visits regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
It enables patients to confer medical power of attorney to their gay partners, authorising them to act and make decisions about the patient.
The memo issued new rules to ensure that hospitals "respect the rights of patients to designate visitors”.
"Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides, whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay," Obama wrote in his memo to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday.
"Uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives, unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."