In September 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a Memorandum directing medical providers that receive Medicare and Medicaid dollars to honor patients’ Advance Directives on Healthcare.

This memorandum is entirely unnecessary as to a large segment of hospital patients, whose husbands and wives are routinely afforded decision-making authority and the right to visit with their loved one.

However, as President Obama stated in a President’s Directive that he issued on April 15, 2010:

every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides — whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.

The President’s Directive highlighted the injustice done to many, particularly including single people and unmarried couples, same-sex couples (married or otherwise).

The Memorandum from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructs that:

  • Notice of the patient’s rights must be given to the patient or patient’s representative.
  • Patients (or their representatives) have the right to participate in the development and implementation of their plan of care.
  • The right to make informed decisions regarding the patient’s care may also be exercised by the patient’s representative as permitted under State law. This right to make informed decisions includes being informed about the patient’s health status, being involved in care planning and treatment, and being able to request or refuse treatment.
  • The patient has the right to formulate an advance directive, which may include delegation of the right to make decisions about the patient’s care to a representative, as well as designation of a support person. The regulation further requires that notice be given to the patient concerning the hospital’s advance directives policy.
  • A family member or representative of the patient’s choice must be promptly notified of the patient’s admission to the hospital.

This highlights the importance of having an up-to-date Advance Directive on Healthcare.