Monday, January 24, 2011

Visitors Welcome

There was some good news on the healthcare front last week: any hospital that accepts Medicare or Medicaid has to allow the patient to put anyone they choose on their visitor’s list. That means that no hospital can refuse to let anyone who is not part of what the hospital defines as “family” be at their bedside.

It’s a radical step toward embracing an approach to “family” that breaks us out of the Dad, Mom, Bud and Sis configuration that still looms so large in the American imagination and in its laws despite the fact that fewer and fewer of us live in those family units. Now you can be by your best friend’s side whether you’re Carmelite nuns or used to play soccer together, or work together or look alike or not. It doesn’t matter whether your aunt approves of you and your “shiksa whore” girlfriend or your transgender spouse, so long as your cousin wants you there.

Of course policy is only as good as we are when it comes to enforcement: people should know about the new visitation rules and ask for them when they’re not offered—and they won’t always be, for a lot of reasons, ranging from administrators’ lack of knowledge to prejudice.

But what a joy to know that the option now exists: that we no longer need to be afraid of letting down the people we love when they need us most.

That means that situations like the story of Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond won’t happen again. And I’m sure that as soon as the Family Research Council hears about this they will raise holy hell. Because, according to their name, they’re the only ones who can define what a family is.

HT to Balloon Juice.