Saturday, April 13, 2013
Same Sex Couple Debacle with Missouri Hospital
I've been following this unbelievable debacle with the same sex couple in Missouri and their dealings with a hospital during a time of crisis. Before I continue, I'd like to state that I've been in medical crisis situations with Tony and we've always had legal power of attorney for each other. I'll comment at the end with my thoughts.
In summary, Allen and Roger are a gay couple who also have legal power of attorney because marriage it not legal for them in their state. Allen's diagnosis is severe depression, he's purposely requested he does not want his family involved in his medical decisions, and he's granted that right to his partner, Roger. From all the back story I've read, Allen's family doesn't accept Roger or their relationship as a gay couple.
Roger has a daughter, Amanda, who has been caring for Allen and she's supportive of her father and his relationship with Roger. Now, for reasons that are unclear to me, Allen's brother and sister, Lee and Pat, summoned the police and paramedics last week to Roger and Allen's home and the police made a determination,..without consulting Roger who has legal power of attorney...to take Allen to an unfamiliar hospital for evaluation. The police allegedly did this knowing that Allen is well known and is being treated at another local hospital.
While all this was happening, Amanda phoned Roger (her dad) and told him to get to the other hospital. From there it just devolves even more. There was a confrontation at the hospital with Roger and Allen's family that included medical staff, the police asked Roger to leave (even though he had legal power of attorney), and when he didn't he was arrested on what sounds like completely trumped up charges to me that the police can often hand out whenever they can't find something specific to charge someone with. Oh, yes they can.
The hospital’s statement on Thursday claimed that there was no restraining order, and according to Amanda’s last update, this was the first information indicating Roger could see Allen again since his arrest on Tuesday. Aravosis confirms via Amanda that the hospital did allow Roger back in to see his husband Thursday night, but only after he “showed up and threw a fit.” She says her family is considering its options and has been talking with the local ACLU as they plan a response. Federal officials are similarly gathering evidence and intent to respond “in a speedy manner.”
You can read more here. There are a few articles and blog posts up that get into more detail. I highly recommend you clicking the link and reading them all to get the full magnitude of this story. Roger's daughter, Amanda, gives a compelling account.
As I stated above, I have personally been in Roger's position. I've posted about it before, and I actually was planning to post an incident this weekend sometime unrelated to this story. But in any event, my experience was not like the incident above. We had our POA drawn up by a Princeton attorney, and notarized. The moment after I phoned the paramedics, I went to my office, pulled the POA papers out, and put them in my brief case. They were the first thing I presented to the hospital upon arrival, even before I presented Tony's health insurance card. I wanted the hospital to know, without a doubt, I had POA. And if they'd given me any problems I would have phoned my attorney immediately. As a side note, my attorney in Princeton is gay and he doesn't like to be screwed around with.
Fortunately for me, I found no issues whatsoever. I have no reason to lie about this. I was a little worried at first that Tony's family might want to jump in and take charge, however, I found the hospital more than willing to support me at every turn I made. I include doctors and nurses and all staff. In fact, they were angels. They supported me beyond anything I'd ever expected. I never once felt unwelcome in the three months Tony was hospitalized. And, in Pennsylvania, gay marriage is not legal.
Tony comes from a large family...seven siblings...and one is a nurse practitioner and another is a registered nurse. I honestly didn't know them *at all* at the time, even though Tony and I had been together for fifteen years. Long story short, Tony had not come out to his family, so I met them all at once in the hospital while he was in a coma. And trust me, until I got to know them, I was on guard the entire time. I carried those POA papers around for months just to make sure no one would try to screw around with me. I also had back up, with my own family and friends.
Things worked out much better for me than they did for Roger in the story above. I found that by getting to know Tony's two sisters and dealing with them as health professionals, they became more of an asset to me than a problem. In other words, I needed their medical knowledge, and I granted them legal access to all of his records. So we wound up working together instead of fighting with each other. And it was an experience that brought me closer to them. It wasn't always perfect, but we all had one common goal: to get Tony back. And when it was time to discharge him in September, they all wanted me to put him in a nursing home for a few weeks until he was stronger. In all honesty, I figured out a way to manipulate the system, trick the social workers, and with careful planning on my part he came directly back home and bypassed the nursing home altogether. Why? I'd had enough of hospitals. And he wanted to come home and we wanted our lives back.
But I do know that all stories involving gay couples are unique, and I happened to have had much better results than the couple mentioned above. Tony and I happen to live in a more progressive, liberal area and that's not an accident. We chose to live here for a reason. Many of the doctors and nurses in the hospital where they took Tony were gay, or had gay friends and relatives. And Tony's family, in spite of his own fears for so many years, wound up accepting us completely and we all became closer than ever as a result of his hospitalization. I feel as if they are my own family now. However, I do know that's not how it works for all gay couples.
I feel very sorry for the couple in Missouri, because I have seen cases where families were not supportive and it turned into a nightmare like the one above...even with legal POA. I hope Roger has a good attorney, or is at least looking for one. But aside from all this, from everything I've written about my experience and about the couple above, the one thing that remains as fact is if marriage were legal for gay couples none of this would have happened and Roger would have been treated with the dignity he deserved. In my case, I wouldn't have had to live in fear and carry around POA papers for three months, terrified that someone might challenge my authority about making decisions for my own husband.