RALEIGH — North Carolina hospital patients will soon have a new right, ensuring they can receive the visitors who matter most to them regardless of the legal status of their relationship. A new statewide rule will help ensure that same-sex partners and other loved ones will be treated the same as immediate family.
The rule adds a provision to the Patients’ Bill of Rights, stating: “A patient has the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient.” The right applies to hospitals statewide.
“We know how important it is that patients have their loved ones by their sides, but all too often same-sex partners have been turned away when their partner is hospitalized.” said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director of Equality NC Foundation. “The new policy will ensure that the patient’s wishes are respected. This is a victory not just for same-sex couples, but for unmarried opposite-sex couples, caregivers, and other loved ones whom the state does not legally recognize.”
Last summer, Equality NC Foundation petitioned the state to add this provision to the Patient’s Bill of Rights, and has been advocating for it through the rule-making process. The Medical Care Commission unanimously approved the rule at its February meeting and on Thursday the Rules Review Commission gave final approval, allowing it to take effect on May 1.
“Same-sex couples should know that this new policy only covers visitation,” cautioned Palmquist. “In order to ensure that our partners have the ability to make medical decisions in the event we’re incapacitated, we must still complete heath care powers of attorney.”
Without a valid health care power of attorney, decision-making authority will go to the patient’s nearest legal relative, and same-sex relationships receive no recognition under North Carolina law.
“This victory will have a real impact in the lives of LGBT North Carolinians,” said Palmquist. “Equality North Carolina is working year-round to make North Carolina a state of equality.”