Department of Health and Human Services Issues Final Regulation on Hospital Visitation

by HRC Staff

Rule protecting rights of LGBT patients effective early next year.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) - the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization - today praised the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) announcement of a final regulation protecting the hospital visitation rights of LGBT people. The regulation requires all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding - nearly every hospital in America - to allow patients to designate who may visit them and prohibits discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Scheduled for publication in the Federal Register tomorrow, the regulation will go into force sixty days later, in mid-January 2011.

"This new federal protection will help thousands of LGBT people, many in times of crisis where they should never face the additional burden of discrimination," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "However, much more must be done to address the many other challenges LGBT Americans face every day in accessing healthcare. We thank Secretary Sebelius for taking this important step forward and look forward to continuing to work with HHS to eliminate additional barriers to our community living healthy, happy lives."

Today's regulation stems from a memorandum issued by President Obama on April 15, itself inspired by a New York Times profile of the tragic experience of Janice Langbehn, Lisa Pond and their children, who were kept apart by discriminatory hospital officials as Lisa lay dying. Lambda Legal represented Janice in a lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and worked with them to revise their policies in the wake of the tragedy. A draft regulation was published for public comment in June HRC submitted comments on the draft rule, and thousands of HRC members and supporters also expressed their support for hospital visitation protections.

HRC has been working in this and many other ways to protect LGBT people in healthcare. HRC's annual Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) measures how equitably healthcare facilities treat their LGBT patients and offers model policies including an LGBT inclusive definition of "family" for visitation purposes. HRC has worked with The Joint Commission as it developed new, LGBT-inclusive standards for hospital accreditation. To learn more about these programs, and important steps LGBT individuals and their families should take to protect themselves, even with the new regulation in place, go to

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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