Friday, April 16, 2010

A Human Right

This is a short story about a woman in Washington state by the name of Janice Langbehn who lost her partner, Lisa, while unable to be at her bedside. A glimpse into just how wonky bureaucratic federal memorandums can actually, tangibly, and in this case, spiritually affect every day citizens:
Well it is no joke from the days of the West Wing that if POTUS calls, you take it. Fortunately today I had a small window of a heads up from Lambda Legal -- those people who have been in this fight for dignity since nearly the beginning.

And sure enough at 4:32 Pacific time, my cell rings, it says unknown -- I was briefed to expect that -- b/c what does the phone from Air Force 1 actually come up as? A gentleman introduced himself and asked if I had time to speak with the President. This is where I had been coached to not assume it was a crank call or a telemarketer. And sure enough the next voice I heard was the President himself. Humility surrounds me and the next 3 minutes of my life. For the past 3 years I have been speaking at large and small events -- posting here on the blog and have been saying over and over -- that holding someone's hand as they die is NOT a GAY right it's a HUMAN right -- and today -- President Barack Obama agreed with me. He knew Lisa's name, and he knew our story and offered the long awaited apology -- that Jackson Memorial STILL refuses to give -- why is that? -- the President could.

In those short minutes of speaking with our President, it was clear he got the issue, and now in reading his memorandum, he understood what happened to Lisa, the kids and I was wrong on many level - especially on the HUMAN level. None of this brings Lisa back. But what it does do -- for the next gay couple -- is that hopefully if your partner is dying you wont be locked behind a door for 8 hours as they slip from this earth and not be allowed to say goodbye.

From the Presidential Memorandum:
There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.

Yet 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. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also 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.

For all of these Americans, the failure to have their wishes respected concerning who may visit them or make medical decisions on their behalf has real onsequences. It means that doctors and nurses do not always have the best information about patients' medications and medical histories and that friends and certain family members are unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate patients' needs. It means that a stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness. And it means that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall.

For eight years we heard a lot about compassionate conservatism. This is compassion I can believe in.

Via The Two-Way.

Step into the rain:

1 comment:

  1. If people didn't have to worry about someone suing them over a non-immediate family member walking into a hospital room, this might not be such a problem. I'm sure this is more nuanced than that, and you can explain it to me after you read this comment. But how does it make ANY sense that a family friend or loved one (who is not an immediate family member) can't have visiting rights? Has it come to the point that we need to make a "guest list" to prepare for future emergencies that require hospitalization? These are things that make me wonder about humanity and how they can take the "human" element out of things so easily sometimes.