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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Healthcare Power of Attorney for Hospital Stays

The Healthcare Power of Attorney for Hospital Stays
By Roger McCaffrey-Boss
Copyright by Gay Chicago magazine and Roger McCaffrey-Boss
July 31, 2007

Q: My lover will be undergoing a serious operation next month. Will I be allowed to visit my lover in the hospital while she is in intensive care? Will I be allowed to make decisions regarding medical matters? Can her family stop me from visiting? What do we need to protect ourselves?

A: In Illinois, the law still considers LGBT couples as two unrelated individuals who live together. Legally they are strangers. The hospital and physicians do not have any legal obligation to consider the desires of LGBT couples to participate in and consent to medical treatment the other may receive while in the hospital.

It is entirely possible that once a member of a couple is hospitalized, the other lover could be refused the right to visit, especially if the patient was in intensive care, which has restricted visitation. The lover would have no right to consent to or authorize medical treatment if the need arose. And the lover would be powerless to question ongoing medical treatment to make sure their lover was receiving proper medical treatment and procedure.

Anytime a member of a couple is hospitalized, the other member should be with their lover as much as possible to make sure their lover is receiving medical treatment and, if necessary, to question the treatment that is or is not being performed. If it is a serious operation or medical treatment, the hospitalized lover may be too sick to look out for themselves, leaving it up to the other. It is the Healthcare Power of Attorney which gives the members of a couple the legal right to participate in this process.

The law also allows a person to grant to their lover - or agent - the following authority:

The right to give consent to and authorize or refuse or withhold any and all types of medical care, treatment or procedures including any medication program, surgical procedures and life-sustaining treatment, even if death would ensue. The law allows a person to specify to what extent and under what circumstances they want their agent to use or withdraw life-sustaining treatment.
The right to admit the person to or discharge the person from any and all types of hospitals, institutions, homes, residential or nursing facilities, treatment centers and other healthcare institutions providing personal care or treatment for any type of physical or mental condition.
The right to examine and copy and consent to the disclosure of all the person’s medical records, whether the records relate to mental health or any other medical condition.
The time that your lover is in the hospital undergoing major surgery is a time when the rights of each member should be protected. Because of the importance of the subject matter of a Healthcare Power of Attorney and the possible consequences, the decision to grant anyone such extensive power should only be made after serious deliberation and consultation with your physician, attorney and designated agent - lover.

Roger McCaffrey-Boss is a graduate of Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a member of the Chicago Bar Association. You can e-mail him at He suggests that you consult your own lawyer for any specific questions regarding the issues raised in this colum


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