Because it is likely that almost every one of us will, at some time, be in a situation where we need someone else to advocate for us with respect to our health care, perhaps the most important documents you can have prepared are your health care documents. These include your Advance Health Care Directive, a HIPAA Release, and, for same-sex couples and other couples who are not legally related, a Hospital Visitation Authorization. Although these documents are important for everyone, because the LGBT community still lacks full equality under the law, these documents are even more critical to insure that a same-sex partner or loved one who is not a biological family member can have access to clinicians and the legal authority to decide important issues, particularly in the event of an emergency.
An Advance Health Care Directive is a document in which you (1) appoint one or more people as your health care agents, (2) indicate whether your agent(s) authority to act on your behalf is effective immediately or only upon your incapacity, (3) define the extent of life support you wish to receive, and (4) dictate your wishes concerning organ and tissue donation.
Congress enacted the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. In part, this law requires written permission from a patient in order for her or his medical provider to release the patient’s medical information, even to a spouse, Registered Domestic Partner, or designated health care agent. The HIPAA Release provides the necessary permission for your health care providers to release information to those people who you choose to be participants in your health care decisions.
Although these documents are important for everyone, because many folks in the LGBT community still lack full equality under the law, these documents are even more critical to insure that a same-sex partner or loved one who is not a biological family member can have access to clinicians and the legal authority to decide important issues, particularly in the event of an emergency.
Same-sex spouses are now legally-recognized family members in every state. As such, you are legally allowed access to each other if one of you is in a restricted-access medical unit, such as an ICU, in the same manner as any other legally-related family member. You are not necessarily entitled to the same access, however, if you are Registered Domestic Partners or in a Civil Union and are in a state that does not recognize your relationship. In addition, for those whose family has no legally-recognized status, you will not be entitled to the same access. The Hospital Visitation Authorization is a simple but critical document, primarily for same-sex couples, which requires a medical provider to allow each partner access to each other, no matter where you are. Because the document is a contract of sorts, and is not based on the status of your relationship, it should be effective in any state.
Please contact the Law Office of Naomi E. Metz to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your health care planning needs.