Presidential Memorandum - Hospital Visitation

President Obama issued this memorandum yesterday to the Secretary of Health and Human Services directing the HHS to ensure that hospitals participating in Medicare and Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors.

In my experience of Catholic healthcare, this has not been much of a concern. We call out core values of respect and compassion. Respecting the wishes of our patients to designate visitors is right in line with these values and our practice.

In reflecting on this memo, I noticed a few interesting points. 

  • The press is picking up on the LGBT angle of this memo. But, before any mention of gay or lesbian Americans, Obama references members of religious orders who are sometimes unable to designate visitors or a medical decision maker other than their immediate family.
  • I think the more interesting point in this memo is around the “guarantee that all patients’ advance directives … are respected…” I wonder if this could be a response to much of the popular reaction around the recent revision of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services
  • This memo may make it easier to name durable powers of attorney or health care proxies. Will this result in new informed consent or advance directive policies?

The memo indicates a response within 180 days. We’ll see what happens in October.

Michael Miller, Jr.