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Religious Tolerance logo

Hospital visitations and
critical health-care decisions

Executive order's negative reactions.
Media coverage. Personal comments

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Negative reactions to the executive order:

  • Peter S. Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council -- a fundamentalist Christian group -- said that the order:
    "... undermines the definition of marriage." ... [It furthers] a big government federal takeover of even the smallest details of the nation's health care system. ... In its current political context, President Obama's memorandum clearly constitutes pandering to a radical special interest group. ... The memorandum undermines the definition of marriage." 1
    He said that his organization does not object to gays giving their partners power of attorney but that it questions Obama's motives.

  • John Aravosis, a blogger on gay issues wrote:

    "The concern is they're [the White House] doing this to provide cover for what they're not doing. They have a history of providing very small things to make up for big promises." 1

  • Melissa McEwan, a blogger on feminist and progressive issues regards "... federally-mandated visitation rights is a very, very important interim mandate." But she expresses one concern:

    "... whether this is going to cause the huge network of Catholic hospitals (or any of the smaller religiously-affiliated hospitals, many of whom already have ridiculous policies like denying emergency contraception to rape survivors) to stop accepting Medicare/Medicaid. Because that, of course, would be bad for everyone, including same-sex couples, dependent on Medicare/Medicaid in small communities where such a hospital is the only option."

    "It seems the administration may have considered that possibility and thus also included this provision: '[The new rules] also will affect widows and widowers who have been unable to receive visits from a friend or companion. And they would allow members of some religious orders to designate someone other than a family member to make medical decisions.' ("Some religious orders"? No clue.)" 2
  • CitizenLink, an information service of the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family supports visitation access under the control of the individual patient. However, they are concerened about:

    "... the political agenda highlighted in the memo’s third point.  In this point, geared specifically toward homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals, the President directs Health and Human Services to find even 'more' ways to find rights for same-sex couples.  But he leaves out other unmarried people who may also have visitation and medical decision-making needs that warrant investigation. The omission seems to be more evidence of the president’s desire to appease the political demands of homosexual activists." 3

    We have been unable to figure out who the "other unmarried people" are. The executive order seems to cover persons of all colors, races, religions, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, and degree of disability.

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Misreporting by the media:

Every article in the media that we have reviewed has treated this executive order primarily as a gay rights issue. In contrast, Janice Langbehn seems to have understood it in perspective. When interviewed by CNN, Janice Langbehn said: "To hold Lisa's hand wasn't a gay right, it was a human right."

Almost all politicians, religious leaders, and others who are interviewed on this topic seem to follow the leading of the media and also treat this development as a gay rights issue.

Under Obama's executive order, the vast majority of hospitals may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. 4 This means that:

  • Men, women, and intersexual persons may not be discriminated against in hospital visitation, nor will
  • Whites, Blacks and persons of other skin colors,
  • Caucasians, African Americans, Asians and persons of other races,
  • Native- born Americans and people originating in other countries,
  • Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, persons of other religions, and persons of no religion,
  • Cisgendered persons, transgender persons, and Transsexuals,
  • Able-bodied and disabled persons,
  • heterosexuals,

as well as:

  • bisexuals, gays and lesbians.

So, why do the media focus almost exclusively on sexual orientation? This may be explained by the well known critera in the media: "If it bleeds, it leads." Articles that generate strong emotion in people are given priority. There is massive sympathy for LGBT persons in America, and massive levels of raw hatred and fear. The contry is profoundly divided between secularists & religious liberals and conservatives, between young and old, between Democrats and Republicans, between North and South, etc. So any news item that may impinge on some persons of minority sexuality is often interpreted as if it involves only LGBTs.

The end result is distortion of the news and indifference to balance and accuracy. Americans deserved better from their information sources.

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Webmaster's personal note:

Since this website went online in 1995-APR, I have written about 5,000 essays here -- most of which have been interesting to research and rather enjoyable to write about. But I can only recall the writing of two essays to be emotionally difficult.

  • One concerned a long-range study of the effects of corporal punishment of children on problems that they experienced in adulthood. The study showed that, later in life, children who had been spanked experienced significantly higher levels of clinical depression, clinical anxiety, alcohol addiction and drug addiction. It seemed to me that if parents were to choose other, non-violent, methods of disciplining their children, the result would be a a massive improvement in public health. Knowing that tens of millions of children in North America are being spanked and thus set up for a higher incidence of mental and physical problems in adulthood was, and remains, heart-wrenching.

  • This topic is the second essay that I found emotionally difficult. A hospital who intentionally places a person in high anxiety pacing the corridors of a trauma center while her long-term partner lies dying a short distance away is beyond contempt. I was moved to tears and rage, and remain that way.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Laura Meckler, "New rules give gays hospital visit rights," Wall Street Journal, 2010-APR-16, at:
  2. Melissa McEwan, "Obama extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples," ShakespearSister blog, 2010-APR-16, at:
  3. Ashley, "A mixed memo," CitizenLink blog, 2010-APR-16, at:
  4. Charles Babington, "Obama: gay partners should have hospital access," Associated Press, 2010-APR-16, at:

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Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" religious topics > Hospital visitation > here

Home > Morality > Hospital visitation > here

Home > Homosexuality > Laws > Hospital visitation > here

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2010-APR-20
Latest update: 2010-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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