Hospital Stays and the Obsolete Laws of the United States

Hospital Stays and the Obsolete Laws of the United States

May 6, 2013

By Paul J. Hartman

This issue was raised at the Mended Hearts Meeting I attended today and is very important for single people without family, particularly here in the United States where laws have not kept up with the realities of the health care environment. I am writing this for people in the United States, however, if the same applies in your country you may use the same type of thing possibly.

This is how I handle this situation – I am not necessarily saying that this is the best way of handling it, but the people at the meeting agreed with my methods and commended me.

I have no family other than six first cousins who are scattered throughout the United States. If I have to have a medical procedure done, either as an outpatient which may require inpatient care later, or as an outpatient where it is possible something may not go right, I hire an advocate nurse assistant to go with me.

I let the hospital and doctors know that I have an advocate nurse assistant so that when I am unconscious they know that someone is aware of what they may or may not be doing.

The advocate nurse assistant has my important phone numbers:

  • the phone number of my durable power of attorney for health care
  • the phone numbers of my successor trustees
  • the phone number of one of the six cousins

If surgery itself is required, minor or major, BEFORE I enter the hospital, BEFORE the arrangements are made, I tell the doctor that I am designating two people as my “Cousins” and that the health care professionals treating me are authorized to talk with these cousins and give them any medical information necessary.

I always designate my two successor trustees as these “Cousins” and of course I also list my Health Care Surrogate; this way the doctors know in advance that they can speak to and give any information to these three persons, when requested, by phone or in person.

BEFORE I enter the hospital – usually when the hospital calls for pre-admission information (which they are now required to do), or if it is submitted by computer, I designate the two ladies as NEXT OF KIN  — COUSINS. One is my first cousin on my father’s side and one is my first cousin on my mother’s side. I do this because they both look so totally different it would be laughable to think that they are actually related to each other. BUT, the point is, by designating them as NEXT OF KIN cousins, I am able to have them not only receive medical information from the health care team, etc, but also mainly, so that they can see me in the Recovery Room, ICU, or any other place in the hospital.

This has to be done because the laws of the United States have not caught up to the REALITIES of the current health care environment, and the current same- sex or no sex, etc, where the laws relative to health care facilities think we are living during the 1850’s instead of 2013, where a person of the same or opposite sex is not allowed to see a person, unless a marriage certificate is presented or unless other proof of relation is presented.

A MERE friend is BARRED in the United States from receiving any information or SEEING a patient, WHETHER the patient is DYING or NOT, which is totally incompatible to the realities of the time upon which we are living.

To say that our laws in the United States are obsolete is being kind. It is time that Congress revisits the laws governing this. Just because the person is a widow or widower or is divorced, and did not have children, or the person for one reason or another is single whether through circumstances or choice, does not mean that they should be deprived of the satisfaction of knowing that someone loves and cares for them, whether friend or acquaintance, and be treated as second class citizens.