Imagine this: Your partner is in a devastating car accident, leaving him unable to speak from a comatose state. The prognosis isn’t good, as the doctors tell you that he might be in permanent vegetative state. Although you’d spoken privately about his wishes to not be artificially kept alive with machines, as a couple you never put anything in writing.
Under Texas law in this situation, you would not be able to make a decision for your partner. Texas law does not permit a partner to make a medical decision on behalf of an incapacitated same-sex partner in the absence of an advance directive. An adult may designate his or her same-sex partner as a health care agent through an advance health care directive. In order to be valid, the directive must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
Of course, none of this is happening in a vacuum. According to a 2010 survey by Lambda Legal entitled “When Health Care Isn’t Caring,” nearly 56 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents had experienced some form of discrimination, while ac- cessing health care, and the same was true for 70 per- cent of transgender respondents. A lot of education, training and understanding, along with a strong dose of compassion, are part of what’s needed.
On the flip side, progress is being made. In April 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to put forth regulations to protect the visitation rights of all Americans, with a specific emphasis on the LGBT community. A White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, told The New York Times: “By taking these steps, we can better protect the in- terests and needs of patients that are gay or lesbian, widows and widowers with no children, members of religious orders, or others for whom their loved ones are not always immediate relatives. Because all Americans should be able to have loved ones there for them in their time of need.”
A new guide was released in 2011 from The Joint Commission, which is the country’s largest health care accreditation organization, called Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient-and-Family-Centered Care for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community: A Field Guide. Developed with the intention of improving all as- pects of the LGBT community’s health care experi- ences, the guide offers strategies, practices, resources and testimonials designed to help providers improve LGBT care.
These issues will ultimately only be solved by active and persistent engagement (big surprise). Ask questions of your doctors, register to vote and elect leaders who share your values.
Did you know?
75.1% of all Texas voters support a guaranteed right of lesbians and gays to make end- of-life decisions for their partners. Source: Equality Texas
Human Rights Campaign is the largest civil rights organization in the U.S. working towards equal rights for LGBT individuals. http://www.hrc.org
Human Rights Campaign 1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W. Washington, DC 20036-3278
Equality Texas is a non-partisan group that aims to educate and orga- nize Texans towards LGBT friendly public policy. http://www.equalitytexas.org Info@EqualityTexas.org 512-474-6297
Equality Texas P.O. Box 2340 Austin, TX 78768
Has advanced civil rights through litigation and education for 70 years. Some ssue areas: free speech, immigrant rights and LGBT rights. http://aclutx.org, firstname.lastname@example.org | 512-478-7300
Austin Regional Office
P.O. Box 1290, Austin, TX 78711-2905
The Opposing View
Representative Lamar Smith, U.S. House of Representatives, Republican, District 21
- Voted YES on the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 (it would have amended the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman only.)
- Voted NO on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010
- Voted NO on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007.
- Earlier this year, the Obama administration made the decision to no longer defend the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Smith, chairman of the House Ju- diciary Committee, said, “No one can seriously believe that the Con- stitution’s authors intended to cre- ate a right to same-sex marriage.”
- Has a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign.