Press Room

HRC Calls on Washington Adventist to Review Visitation Policies

Federal regulations and Maryland law require equal access to visitation

WASHINGTON –The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today calls on Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland, to review its policies and practices related to hospital visitation.  On November 13, 2011, Kathryn Wilderotter was admitted to the hospital following a car accident.  When Linda Cole, her legal spouse and partner of 11 years, arrived, she was reportedly not recognized as a family member and denied the right to visit Kathryn.  Such a denial would violate federal hospital visitation regulations and Maryland law. 

“Discrimination during a medical emergency may be one of the worst forms of discrimination LGBT people face,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Recognizing this problem, federal regulations were put in place to end discrimination in healthcare settings and allow all people to be with their loved ones during their most critical moments.”

In January of last year, federal regulations regarding patients’ hospital visitation rights went into effect.  The regulations require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs – virtually every hospital in the country – to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Washington Adventist Hospital was a non-responder in HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an annual survey of healthcare policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families.  The HEI can serve as an organizational assessment tool by assisting hospitals in modifying their policies, and can help hospitals comply with The Joint Commission standards addressing non-discrimination, as well as new HHS regulations on visitation.  The couple has filed a complaint about the incident with The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HRC again invites Washington Adventist Hospital to participate in the HEI 2012, which could help avoid future incidents of hospital visitation discrimination.    

The HEI survey is currently open for completion online.  More information is available at www.hrc.org/hei.     

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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