If you haven’t already, you should read Amanda Brown’s story of how her father was denied access to his partner despite having all the legal requirements in place.
After I pack up the house, my daughter, and arrange plans for someone to come and get her at the hospital because I have no idea how long I will need to be there we arrive all at the same time to see Allen received by the nursing staff and my Dad, Roger Gorley, follows him in along with Lee, Allen’s brother. This is when things started to get ugly.
Roger immediately rushed to Allen’s side, grabbed his hand, and reassured him everything will be ok. He will handle everything. He is in good hands and they will be going home as soon as possible. His brother Lee decided to say similar things but to also add in that he will not allow Roger to make these decisions and he will make sure everything is ok. Well that ignited the fire in my father that had been swelling up inside of him. He said, “No you won’t! This is my husband. I know what he wants and needs. You are never around. You need to leave.”
The nurse had had enough at this point and asked my father to leave. He gave her a surprised look back and said “No I’m staying with my husband.” She responded with “I know who you two are. You need to leave.” My father took this as she had treated Allen before, knew who my father was to him, and was making the decision that they didn’t have the right to one another as husband and husband. So instead of checking the file to see his power of attorney in his medical chart (they each have one for each other) she immediately called the police and had my father forcibly removed.
The police also didn’t bother to check who should be there.
When the Kansas City Missouri Police Department arrived they asked my father to leave the room. He said to them, “No. This is my husband and I am going to stay with him.” The police considered that a violation of a direct order so they began to forcibly remove him from the room. My father held onto the rail of the gurney as well as his husbands hand with everything he had. The police responded with brut and excessive force. The office began karate chopping his wrist to get him to release the gurney. Then they wrestled him to the ground forcefully enough to knock his glasses off of his face, his hearing aids out of his ears, and nearly break his wrist while they took him down. To handcuff him they pushed a knee into his back and wrenched his wrists around.
Things got uglier with the police from there. The hospital, when asked for comment, took no responsibility for denying the power of attorney and recognizing the brother over the husband.
“Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.
This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care. The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”
The presence of a policy, of course, always means that it will be followed. A policy always works consistently and protects people from those unconscious biases that many of us still display even as we consciously work toward equality for everyone.
Or, you know, maybe it doesn’t. I’m going with that answer here, because what happened to Amanda’s father is exactly what happens to all too many people who are denied equal treatment and object to what happens to them.
Hospitals know that not everyone agrees on how a patient should be treated. They know that these decisions are emotionally laden. They certainly know that birth families and families of choice have different priorities and interests. Managing these conflicts is part of life in a hospital.
What isn’t part of life in a hospital is selectively sending someone’s spouse out of a room when a sibling tries to take control of the patient’s medical treatment. Any spouse will be upset–and rightly so–when that happens. This is entirely predictable.
Recognizing that a spouse has that right to be protective of the patient and distressed at the idea of separation–and particularly distressed at the idea that someone else will be dictating care for the patient–well, you’d think that was obvious. However, it’s one of the lovely little Catch-22s of belonging to a marginalized group that when you stand up and demand to be treated as well as the minority, you are instead viewed as belligerent, defiant–disruptive.
Don’t tell the world you know your rights, and you won’t receive them. Tell them loudly enough to be heard, and you’re disruptive. How do you win?
Roger and Allen have been reunited, but Roger is still facing legal costs over the arrest. He and Allen have also lost a considerable investment in vacation plans that were terminated by Allen’s brother’s intervention in Allen’s care. If you’d like to help on the monetary front, you can.