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Hospital Visitation Policies

May 2013


Children's Hospital, located in Birmingham, Alabama, has a very inclusive, very LGBT-friendly, visitation policy regarding patients and their families.


According to their stated policy "family" is defined as any person who plays a significant role in an individual’s life. This may include a person who is not legally related to the individual. Members of "family" include spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others as well as brothers, sisters, step-siblings, and half-siblings.


Children’s Hospital does not restrict, limit or otherwise deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, an individual's self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex, sexual orientation or disability.




Children's Hospital of Alabama


LGBT Friendly Healthcare Facilities

December 2011


Jenna McDavid, of the National LGBT Cancer Network, is currently developing a directory of LGBT-friendly health care facilities. And she is seeking your help with this important project.


She and her organization want to know if anyone has had good experiences at any of the hospitals or health care facilities in the area.  At this point in their research, they are trying to fill in some regional gaps and looking for anecdotal evidence from some of the less populous/less progressive cities and counties in the U.S. that might lead to less obvious LGBTQ-competent facilities.  


Once they receive a good lead from you about specific locations, Jenna McDavid's group is contacting facilities to conduct interviews with staff there to find out if they are suitable for inclusion in their directory.  Some of the things they are looking for include whether the hospital has experience treating LGBT patients, mandatory sensitivity training or cultural competence curricula, and non-discrimination policies. 


"We must be confident in the referrals we're making," she says, "and we're hopeful that a combination of anecdotal evidence and direct interviews with providers will get us to where we need to be."


If you would like to provide good information for this directory, contact Jenna McDavid at the National LGBT Cancer Network




New Hospital Rules: Visitation Rights for Gay Partners

Noel Brinkerhoff / December 2010


The Obama administration is in the final stages of approving new rules requiring hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid to grant visitation rights to same-sex partners. The regulations, developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), prevent hospital staff from denying visitation to anyone for non-clinical reasons.


“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.”


The new rules will also affect widows and widowers who have been unable to receive visits from a friend or companion. In addition, members of some religious groups will gain the right to designate someone other than a family member to make medical decisions.


The rules will go into effect 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register.


The change was first announced in April. It was followed by a period of public review during which health officials received thousands of comments from patient advocates, hospitals and other stakeholders before finalizing the regulations.


All Gov: Gay Patients Gain Hospital Visitation Rights

Medicare Finalizes New Rules to Require Equal Visitation Rights for All Hospital Patients
Medicare & Medicaid Programs: Changes to Hospital and Critical Access Hospital Conditions of Participation to Ensure Visitation Rights for All Patients
Obama Orders Hospital Visitation Rights for Gay Partners, Friends of Widows


Hospital Visitation: Discrimination Against LGBT Patients and Families

April 2010


After signing a memo directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to address hospital visitation and other health care issues affecting LGBT families, President Barack Obama called Janice Langbehn to express his sympathies for the tragic loss of her partner Lisa Pond and the treatment she suffered.


"The steps that President Obama outlined are a great leap forward in addressing discrimination affecting LGBT patients and their families," said Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal Executive Director. "These measures are intended to ensure that no family will have to experience what the Langbehn-Pond family did that night at Jackson Memorial Hospital. We are so proud of Janice and her family — she stood up and told her story and it made a difference."



In September 2009, a federal district court rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn, ruling that no law required the hospital to allow her and their three children to see her partner. Langbehn and the children were kept apart from Pond by hospital staff for eight hours as Pond slipped into a coma and later died. After that Lambda Legal worked with other LGBT organizations and officials at Jackson Memorial Hospital to change hospital policies on visitation and respecting the wishes of same-sex couples and their families.


The President's memorandum to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services includes the following: HHS should promulgate rules for hospitals that receive Medicaid or Medicare funds that require them to respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. HHS should also take steps to ensure that such hospitals have adequate policies to respect the legal documents that some patients have designating who can make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. Finally, the President directs HHS to report back to him in 180 days with additional recommendations about actions it can take to address hospital visitation, medical decision-making and other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.


"It was very rewarding to hear 'I'm sorry,' from the President because that's what I have wanted to hear from Jackson Memorial since the night Lisa died, " said Janice Langbehn. "I hope that taking these steps makes sure that no family ever has to experience the nightmare that my family has gone through."



Lambda Legal: Pres Obama Issues Memo on LGBT Health Issues
White House: President's Memorandum on Hospital Visitation
Lambda Legal's Lawsuit Against Jackson Memorial Hospital

NY Times: Obama Widens Medical Rights for Gay Partners
Huffington Post: Obama Orders Hospital Visitation Rights for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Pride Source: New National Rules for LGBT Hospital Visitation

CNN: Obama Orders Hospital Visitation Rights for Gays & Lesbians
Video: Suing Over Access to Dying Gay Partner


LGBT Health Resources

LGBT and Public Health
National Coalition for LGBT Health
CDC: LGBT Health
LGBT Health Communities
National LGBT Cancer Network
HRC: List of National LGBT Health Organizations
Gay Health
Gay & Lesbian Health Association
LGBT Heart
Reporting on Health: LGBT Health Issues
NAMI: LGBT Mental Health Resources
Healthline: Gay and Lesbian Health

Birmingham AIDS Outreach
The Body: Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
AIDS Info: US Dept of Health & Human Services
AIDS Education Global Info System
HIV/AIDS Factsheet: CDC
AIDS Stats Around the World
GayScape: AIDS/HIV Links
Social Security Disability Resource Center: AIDS/HIV Info



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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama