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Medicare Finalizes Visitation Rights Rules

Medicare issued new rules for hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.

“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”

The new rules require hospital to respect the right of all patients to choose who may visit them when they are an inpatient.

The rules require hospitals to have written policies and procedures detailing patients’ visitation rights, as well as the circumstances under which the hospitals may restrict patient access to visitors based on reasonable clinical needs.

A key provision of the rules specifies that all visitors chosen by the patient (or his or her representative) must be able to enjoy “full and equal” visitation privileges consistent with the wishes of the patient (or his or her representative).

Among other things, the rules impose new requirements on hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or other type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time.

“These rules put non-clinical decisions about who can visit a patient out of the hands of those who deliver care and into the hands of those who receive it,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, MD, MPP.

For more information read the Medicare news release:

Medicare finalizes new rules to require equal visitation rights for all hospital patients