NCTE’s statement on the President’s Memorandum yesterday on hospital visitation rights can be found on our webpage. This is my personal reflection.
In the course of our work, there are some issues that impact us very personally; the President’s Memorandum on hospital visitation was one of those for me. My partner died last year from complications during open heart surgery at a major university hospital. When he was alert and conscious in the days leading up to the surgery, there was no problem being able to visit him.
However, when it became clear that he was critically ill and was moved to Intensive Care, the scrutiny over who was visiting was naturally heightened. Although, thankfully, I was never barred from seeing him, I was extremely aware that my presence at his side was solely dependent on the good will and compassion of the nurses and doctors treating him and on the fact that his amazing adult son was very supportive of his dad’s way of living and always made sure I was included. I am very grateful for that.
However, I’ve never felt more powerless, between his illness and my knowledge that there was no law or policy that would back me up if someone did decide to challenge my presence with him. The burden of these most difficult and painful moments of our lives should never be increased by the fear or reality of being separated from our loved ones. One of the great comforts to me as I’ve grieved his death is that I was as close as I could be to him during that final ordeal.
The news reports of the President’s actions have brought me to tears again as I realize the incredible impact this will on LGBT people at our most vulnerable moments—when we are sick, injured or dying or when someone we love is. The changes announced will hopefully only touch us at rare points in our lives, but those are going to be the moments that matter the most.