The Psychology of Public Policy.

A commentator on NPR's Morning Edition offered that Obama's presidential memo on LGBT hospital visitation rights, enforced through hospitals' taking of federal Medicare and Medicaid monies, wouldn't have much impact in New York, where it's already standard practice. The impact will be felt more, is the implication, in places like Florida, where Janice Langbehn was denied the right to see her partner of 18 years in a Miami hospital after she collapsed with an aneurysm. But that seems to fail to consider the psychological impact of Obama's visitation order even where there aren't policy ones.

Law is one thing, but what in many cases gnaws on the gay psyche is raw uncertainty. Not knowing the situation you're going to walk into when you bring your partner into an emergency room is in itself draining, and even a little humiliating. Is one unthinking nurse going to make me feel less than equal, less than able to care for my loved one? Langbehn and her partner were on vacation in Miami at the time the latter fell sick. The hope would be that, this morning, LGBT Americans have more mental security
that when they're at home or on vacation, their country expects them to be treated
decently. That's of enormous value.

Also worth noting is that this order isn't just limited to LGBT Americans. Two old people living in a nursing home without the benefit of marriage can define "family" as one another, for the purposes of visitation rights. Who among us can object to that kind of personal agency?

--Nancy Scola

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