Gay man handcuffed, forcibly removed from partner’s bedside at Missouri hospital

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.”

UPDATE: Hospital issues new statement contradicting earlier statement to the police.

UPDATE: I just interviewed the daughter of Roger Gorley, the man arrested at his husband’s hospital bed.  Her eyewitness account directly contradict’s hospital’s official statement.  She also alleges HIV discrimination by hospital security.

Research Medical Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, forcibly removed a gay man, Roger Gorley, from his partner Allen’s bedside in handcuffs, even though the men had a joint power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other.

The men say the hospital refused to check for their medical power of attorney, even though they have one, and told the hospital they have one.

UPDATE: The hospital has released a statement via its Facebook page – the statement has a few problems:

We appreciate your concern and would like to assure you that Research Medical Center puts the care of our patients as our #1 priority regardless of sexual orientation. We support all the communities we serve. We have a long history of commitment to a culture of diversity. Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care. The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.

We would also like to correct the misinformation about a restraining order. There was no issue of a restraining order by the hospital.

Yeah, but.  Let’s walk through this statement, shall we?

1. That’s nice that the hospital has had a policy about “domestic partner visitation rights” for years, but that’s not what this is about.  This is about an Obama administration regulation that says that a person can designate anyone – even a friend – to be in the room with them at the hospital, and their blood family can’t say boo.  So domestic partnerships are irrelevant, unless as I note below, a family member challenges the gay boyfriend, and the gay boyfriend needs to prove that he’s the relative in charge.  But again, domestic partnership docs are only one way of proving that – he could simply show that they live at their same address, via his photo ID.

2. Disruptive and belligerent behavior is irrelevant if the hospital didn’t follow the rules as laid out in the administration’s regulations, again explained in depth below.  For example, a store can not kick a black man out for being belligerent right after they’ve told him he has to leave because he’s black.  If they violate the law, or the rule in this case, and it upsets the person being injured, they can’t then claim his upset as justification for the earlier rule-breaking.  The hospital needs to explain, in detail, what was said to whom.

This is bs. This hospital appears to have possibly violated a US government regulating putting at risk their Medicare and Medicaid funding.  If they’re going to continue claiming that it was all the gay guy’s fault, then they need to tell us exactly what happened, or they can do the same thing to the next gay couple that comes to this or any HCA hospital.  They’re clearly not repentant, so they’re saying they’d do nothing differently in the future.  Fine, then what happened?

You can contact the Research Medical Center here via their Facebook page.  And there’s a bit more information here on Roger’s Facebook page, but it doesn’t really go into what happened at the hospital.

Interestingly, I’ve confirmed that the hospital appears to be covered by the Obama administration regulations issued a few years ago, which require hospitals to recognize gay partners.  More on that below, including what documents you do or do not need in order to prove you have the right to be with your partner at the hospital

Roger Gorley and his partner Allen

Roger Gorley and his partner Allen

The hospital now has a restraining order against the man – he is forbidden from visiting his partner in the hospital – and the hospital is now defending its actions, claiming they like to involve the “family” (they mean hetero family) in the decision.

“They dragged him to the floor, his glasses were knocked off, his hearing aids fell out of both ears.”

Research Medical Center is now accusing the man of being “disruptive”: How would you react if a hospital tried to forcibly remove you from the bedside of your spouse because they parents don’t like you, and then they refuse to even verify your medical power of attorney?

research-medical-center

Abominable.

And I love this part of the story:

Research Medical Center says it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or race.

Uh, yeah, you do.

How the Obama gay hospital visitation policy works

As you may know, the Obama administration fixed this hospital visitation problem a few years back.  Here’s what ABC reported at that time:

Patients at nearly every hospital in the country will now be allowed to decide who has visitation rights and who can make medical decisions on their behalf — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or family makeup — under new federal regulations.

I’ve spoken to the administration and received details on how the new regulations work.  In a nutshell, the regs apply to any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.  Research Medical Center’s Web site appears to confirm that the hospital takes Medicare and Medicaid in at least one area of their practice:

by-default-2013-04-11-at-12.25.23-PM

So Research Medical Center appears to be covered by the regs.  Now, here’s how the regs work.

1. The patient is coherent.  If the patient is awake, and coherent, they can designate anyone they want – even a friend – to be with them in the hospital, and no one – not even a family member – can trump that request, ever.  Even if the patient subsequently becomes unconscious.

From the administration’s guidelines:

“When a patient who is not incapacitated has designated, either orally to hospital staff or in writing, another individual to be his/her representative, the hospital must involve the designated representative in the development and implementation of the patient’s plan of care.”

2. If the patient is unconscious or not coherent, and has not previously stated who they wish to be their representative, by their side, etc., the hospital MUST accept your word that you are a partner, family member, significant other, etc.  No documentation is needed, UNLESS someone else claims that THEY are the patient’s representative instead of you.  So here are the two scenarios:

A) Patient is unconscious and no family member challenges you.  Hospital must accept your word, period – no documentation needed.  From the guidance:

“When a patient is incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate his or her wishes, there is no written advance directive on file or presented, and an individual asserts that he or she is the patient’s spouse, domestic partner (whether or not formally established and including a same-sex domestic partner), parent (including someone who has stood in loco parentis for the patient who is a minor child) or other family member and thus is the patient’s representative, the hospital is expected to accept this assertion, without demanding supporting documentation, and must involve the individual as the patient’s representative in the development and implementation of the patient’s plan of care.”e.”

B) Patient is unconscious and family member does challenge you.  Hospital can ask for proof from you and the family member proving your status.  From the guidance:

“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.”

So worst case scenario, you simply need to show that you share a joint household (a driver’s license with the same address should do).  If you don’t have that on you, then you might have to go home and get an electric bill, proof of your marriage or civil union, a joint bank statement, etc. Or in the case of these guys, you would get your medical power of attorney.

What the hospital needs to do to implement the policy fairly

And keep in mind, the hospital would need to do a few things here, I believe:

1. The hospital would need to challenge the blood-family member and the gay partner equally – both must be asked for documentation of their status.

2. The hospital needs to inform both of them what kind of documentation would suffice.  For example, if gay partners says “we have a medical power of attorney,” hospital should respond,” great, since you’re being challenged by the other guy, you need to show it to me, but in the meantime, if you simply have a drivers license or a bill showing you both have a joint residence, that’s enough.”  It’s unclear whether the hospital did its due diligence in explaining the policy, and what would meet the requirements of the policy.

And finally, the hospital is on thin ice, I think, by claiming the gay partner was disruptive. Of course he was.  Because, potentially, they were violating his rights.  It would be akin to not permitting someone to enter a grocery store because they’re black, then when they get disruptive saying “we kicked you out because you were disruptive.”  If the hospital didn’t meet its due diligence in implementing the regulations, they can’t kick the guy out for getting ticked off about it, IMHO.

And finally, the Obama administration does have enforcement power here.  If the hospital refuses to comply with the regs, if in fact they haven’t, the administration has the power to cut off the hospital’s participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

GOP Gov. Walker of WI opposes hospital visitation rights for gay couples

As an aside, you might recall that GOP darling governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has been trying to take away hospital visitation rights from gay couples in that state.  Not only does the Republican party not want to let us marry, they want to force us to die alone.

Perhaps not surprisingly, outside of GOP circles – and Missouri – hospital visitation rights aren’t that controversial. From our reporting a few years back:

Public opinion polls show that those measures are widely supported, at times by more than 8 in 10 Americans, even though fewer than half of poll respondents typically support same-sex marriage.“I think it’ll be relatively noncontroversial,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster in Virginia. “In this day and age, basic rights are deemed to be accorded to everyone. This allows him to give something to his base without worrying too much about backlash on the other side.”

Republican leaders and potential presidential candidates were uncommonly quiet on Friday, suggesting that Mr. Obama had located a rare bit of breathing room on a political landscape that is often crowded, contentious and noisy.

(H/t JoeMyGod)


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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