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Where do we draw the line between rights and benefits?

Carl G. Streed Jr.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
M.D. Candidate, Class of 2013

Following the unjust denial of Janice Langbehn's right to be at the bedside as her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, lie dying, Pres. Obama directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to address hospital visitation, medical decision-making, and other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families, resulting in the granting of hospital visitation rights to patient chosen designees.

"...the failure to have [Americans'] wishes respected concerning who may visit them or make medical decisions on their behalf has real consequences. It means that doctors and nurses do not always have the best information ... It means that a stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness. And it means that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall." Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies

But this past weekend, the Republican Presidential hopeful made clear he believes LGBT individuals do not have the right to marriage, adoption, or hospital visitation. They are all benefits to be granted state-by-state...well not marriage...the federal government will ban that:

"Governor Romney supports a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children. I referred to the Tenth Amendment only when speaking about these kinds of benefits – not marriage."-Bay Buchanan, Gov. Romney Advisor

The Republican Nominee has chosen to ignore current policy in favor of political gain, he has chosen to ignore the dignity of a group of Americans in favor of the votes of bigots, he has chosen to ignore the advice of medical professionals in favor of...what?

Our American Medical Association supports legal recognition of domestic partners for hospital visitation rights and as the primary medical care decision maker in the absence of an alternative health care proxy designee. (Res. 101, I-01; Reaffirmed: CMS Rep. 7, A-11)

Our American Medical Association encourages all hospitals to add to their rules and regulations, and to their Patient's Bill of Rights, language permitting same sex couples and their dependent children the same hospital visitation privileges offered to married couples.(Res. 733, A-06)

Where do we draw the line between rights and benefits? Is my right to work as a physician, currently protected from discrimination on account of my sexual orientation, a benefit as well? Is my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness also a benefit to be granted state by state rather than guaranteed across the nation?

As a medical professional-to-be, I wonder why politicians keep telling our patients how to die, how to live, how to love.

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