According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2010, the majority of healthcare facilities in the United States do not have policies in place to guarantee lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals the right to receive their preferred visitors and designate surrogate decision makers during medical emergencies. According to the report, only 58% of the nation’s largest hospitals protect patients from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the tides may soon change. Kaiser Permanente updated its patient bill of rights on June 7 to prevent LGBT patients and their families from experiencing discrimination. This bill of rights applies to Kaiser’s entire network of 36 hospitals and paves the way for other organizations to follow. Other organizations that have recently updated their policies to address sexual orientation and gender identity include Bay State Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Center, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Healthcare Equality Index comes on the heels of President Obama’s memorandum to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) dated April 15, 2010 calling for equal visitation and medical decision making rights for the LGBT community. The memorandum directs HHS to make rules that require all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds to protect the LGBT community’s rights when it comes to visitation and decision making.