Hospital contradicts own statement to police about arrest of gay man from partner’s bed

UPDATE: A former employee of Research Medical Center, and a current employee of a Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) subsidiary – HCA is the parent company of Research Medical Center – spoke out about this case and said that the hospital does not discriminate against “f*gs.”

Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, that had a gay man arrested from the hospital bedside of his husband, just issued another statement that undercuts the hospital’s claims of innocence.

As you know, this past Tuesday, Roger Gorley was handcuffed and dragged away from the bedside of his partner, Allen, after getting into an argument with Allen’s brother Lee over Allen’s care (according to Roger’s daughter, who witnessed the altercation).

The hospital claims that it had gay Roger (as I’ll call him – the story gets confusing with all the male names) arrested because he wouldn’t leave when a nurse asked him to. But now, with this latest statement from the hospital this morning, the hospital’s apparent duplicity, or at least ignorance of federal regulations, appears to finally be becoming apparent.

Let me walk you through why I believe the hospital just did itself no favors with this latest statement.

Roger-Gorley-and-AllenIn the latest statement, from HCA spokesman Rob Dyer (HCA is the parent company of Research Medical Center), the hospital claims that Gorley was asked to leave because he wouldn’t quiet down.  But at the same time, the hospital claims that Gorley was asked to show his medical power of attorney for his partner Allen, and couldn’t provide it. Leading to the proverbial: ruh roh.

This is a long story, but let me summarize the most important point right now.

This entire story in a nutshell

By admitting that they asked Roger Gorley to prove that he had medical power of attorney for his spouse, Allen, the hospital admits that things would have turned out differently had Gorley had the proof on his person.  Thus, the hospital admits that this was not, as it keeps claimingly, solely a case of a man being “disruptive.” It was a case of a gay man being unable to prove, to the hospital’s satisfaction, that he was the spouse of another gay man lying in the emergency room.  Thus the hospital’s due diligence, or lack thereof (I’d argue), in finding out whether Gorley was the spouse is relevant – nay, key – to this entire story.  And as I’ll show below, the hospital’s due diligence in following federal regulations governing same-sex hospital visitation appears to have been lacking, to say the least.

Was gay man arrested for being too loud, or not having proof of medical power of attorney?

First the hospital claims that Roger was arrested for refusing to leave because he was fighting with Lee.

But then the hospital claims, in the same statement, that Roger was kicked out because he couldn’t prove that he had the medical power of attorney for his partner, Allen, which he says he has. (Didn’t the hospital have this in its files?)

So which one is it?

Was Roger kicked out because he was being too loud, or because he couldn’t prove he was the primary person responsible for patient Allen’s health? The fact that the hospital asked for Roger’s medical power of attorney suggests they wouldn’t have kicked him out had he had it – otherwise it would have been irrelevant to ask for it – he’d have been no less “disruptive” even had he had the medical power of attorney on him.  So which one is it – was the problem that Roger was disruptive, or that he couldn’t prove that he had sole responsibility for his gay partner’s health decisions?

Why wasn’t the straight belligerent removed as well?

And if gay Roger was kicked out because he was fighting, why wasn’t straight Lee also removed?  According to Amanda, Roger’s daughter, Lee wasn’t.  But the latest news story suggests that the hospital knew both men were fighting and both men were refusing to back down:

However, HCA said the decision to ask Gorley to leave was because Gorley and Allen’s brother were fighting inside the hospital room.

“When the nurse went in to ask them to please quiet down and please stop this and they continued, and every time they stepped out it would get escalated, so she stepped back in and asked them to remove themselves for the sake of the patient at the moment,” said Rob Dyer of HCA….

“He [Gorley] and the patient’s brother were fighting in the patient’s room very loudly, very crassly, inappropriate language,” Dyer said.

Asked THEM to remove THEMselves because “they” were fighting?  Not according to Amanda, but let’s leave that aside for a moment and accept that hospital’s contention that both men were yelling and refusing to back down.  Roger was asked to leave, according to Amanda, and Lee was not.  Roger was arrested for not leaving, and Lee stayed for a while until finally he was asked to leave because Allen, the patient, said he wanted Lee to leave.

So the hospital is now claiming that both Lee and Roger refused to stop fighting, so the hospital must have asked both straight Lee and gay Roger to leave, right?  Was Lee asked to leave at the same time Roger was asked to leave?  And did he leave immediately?  The video, the hospital mentions, will prove it.  Does the video show Lee leaving when Roger was asked to leave?  And if he didn’t leave, why did the hospital not have him arrested as well?

Hospital did not appear to follow federal regulations concerning same-sex visitation rights

But it gets worse for the hospital. Under the federal regulations governing same-sex hospital visitation, the hospital does not appear to have followed the regulations – by its own admission – making it subject to possible forfeiture of its Medicare and Medicaid contracts with the federal government. Here’s why:

A) I interviewed the Medicare and Medicaid office in Washington yesterday, and got the complete details of the hospital visitation regulations.  Roger didn’t need to provide any proof of his medical power of attorney, or anything else for that matter, if, as his daughter claims, patient Allen said, during the altercation, “I want him here.”

Under federal regulations, that is all that is needed, the argument ends.  So why did the hospital ask gay Roger to prove his power of attorney?

B) Let’s assume, devil’s advocate, that the daughter is wrong, and patient Allen did not ask for Roger to stay (perhaps he was unconscious).

Federal regs say that the partner can simply say “I’m in charge,” and that’s enough UNLESS someone else asserts that they too are in charge of the patient, which appears to have happened here when Allen’s straight brother also stepped in and asserted his authority  Here’s what the regs say happens next, and I quote the federal guideline accompanying the regs:

“In such cases [when more than one individual claims to be the patient’s representative], it would be appropriate for the hospital to ask each individual for documentation supporting his/her claim to be the patient’s representative.  The hospital should make its determination of who is the patient’s representative based upon the hospital’s determination of who the patient would most want to make decisions on his/her behalf.  Examples of documentation a hospital might consider could include, but are not limited to, the following:  proof of a legally recognized marriage, domestic partnership, or civil union; proof of a joint household; proof of shared or co-mingled finances; and any other documentation the hospital considers evidence of a special relationship that indicates familiarity with the patient’s preferences concerning medical treatment.”

Let’s walk through the regs a bit:

1. The hospital is required to ask each contesting party for proof of the relationship, if the hospital is not already aware of who is in charge. But the hospital allegedly already knew the gay men were a couple, and that Roger was in charge.

The guidelines state quite clearly that “The hospital should make its determination of who is the patient’s representative based upon the hospital’s determination of who the patient would most want to make decisions on his/her behalf.”

So if the hospital already knows who is making the decisions, its determination is over.  Roger’s daughter, Amanda, says that Roger and Allen had been to the hospital together repeatedly, and that the same nurse had treated them multiple times – the nurse who called the hospital security this time.  Amanda says the nurse already knew that Roger was the gay partner in charge.  If that’s true, then she would have appeared to have violated the federal guidelines by asking for more proof.

2. But let’s say, devil’s advocate, that the nurse didn’t know who was in charge.  Why did the hospital only ask Roger for proof of his medical power of attorney, and no other proof instead of the power of the attorney?

Under the federal regs, proof can include “proof of a legally recognized marriage, domestic partnership, or civil union; proof of a joint household; proof of shared or co-mingled finances.”  Did the hospital ask Roger to show a driver’s license proving that he and the patient, Allen, share a joint household?  From what the hospital spokesman said, it sounds like the hospital made it an all-or-nothing deal, based on the medical power of attorney, and that is not the way the federal regulations work.  The hospital should have asked Roger to simply prove that they live at the same address.  Nothing in the hospital’s statement indicates that they did that.

3. What proof did the hospital ask of Lee, the brother of the patient, who was in the altercation with gay Roger, and who was not asked to leave?  The hospital’s statement suggests that they only asked for proof from the gay man, not the straight one.  Again, that’s not the way the regs work.

4. Once Roger was taken away by the police, who was in charge of patient Allen’s medical decisions?  Allen was reportedly slipping in and out of consciousness, according to Roger’s daughter Amanda.  So with Roger gone, who did the hospital accept as the person responsible for Allen’s medical decisions, and how did they make that choice, what documentation did they require from the heterosexual family members?

Police report appears to contradict new hospital statement

Oh but it gets worse. According to the police report, the hospital told the cops that the reason they ejected Roger was because the hospital “did not want to have any visitors to Allen’s room.”

But that flat-out contradicts the hospital spokesman today claiming that Roger was ejected, not because they wanted no visitors, but rather because of the fight.  And, if they didn’t want anyone in the room, then it wouldn’t have mattered if Roger had had a medical power of attorney, so why did they ask for it?  And if they wanted no visitors in the room, then why does daughter Amanda say that they were all permitted to stay in the room after the police took Roger away?

Not to mention, if the hospital wanted NO visitors in the room, then how did the other visitors witness Roger’s arrest?  That would mean that the witnesses, including Roger’s daughter and straight Lee, also refused the hospital’s request for them to leave – since the hospital wanted “no one” in the room, and they were still there when the hospital security and ultimately the police arrived.  Thus, they too were disobeying the hospital’s order to leave and were also trespassing, if the hospital is now telling the truth about what happened.  Then why weren’t Amanda and straight Lee arrested too?

The statement from HCA’s Rob Dyer seems to contradict itself, and the earlier version of events that Research Medical issued to the press and to the police.

Some of the hospital’s best friends are gay

Finally, the hospital’s “some of our best friends are gay” excuse rings a tad hollow, it’s also irrelevant:

Dyer said Gorley’s accusations are particularly upsetting given the hospital’s record.

“We were one of the first to have same-sex benefits in the market. We were one of the first to acknowledge same-sex partnerships.”

Look, that’s great that the hospital offers same-sex partner benefits.  Seriously.  This is Missouri, after all.  So kudos.  But that has nothing to do with whether every single employee, in a hospital group containing thousands of employees nationwide, is A) not a homophobe, and B) even if not a homophobe, sufficiently trained so as to know what the regulations say in detail about how they are to proceed when a family member challenges a gay partner.

It sounds, from what we’re hearing, that Research Medical Center’s staff were not fully aware of the federal regulations governing hospital visitations  or how to implement them (what training did the hospital staff have since the federal regs were promulgated, so that they’d know how to fully implement them correctly? ).

And had Roger and Allen been married for “real,” this would have never happened.  Because they were gay, it got, at best, confusing for the hospital staff.  And that means, even were no malice intended, this entire mess occurred because the patient and his spouse were gay.

At the very least, this is a great teaching moment for Research Medical, for HCA, for hospitals across America, and for every gay person who has a partner.  The fact that we cannot marry nationwide has consequences.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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