1/21/2009

1138 Reasons: Emergency Next of Kin

1138-NEWImage by jessebucksc via FlickrNext-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions or filing wrongful death claims are denied to LGBT spouses under DOMA and most state laws.

Unlike straight couples if a gay spouse is involved in a car accident the other spouse is not entitled to notification nor is that spouse allowed to automatically make medical decisions if the patient is incapacitated.

Many gay couples carry Health Care Powers of Attorney, however, hospitals may contest the validity of these documents and require that the spouse go to court to get enforcement. In the meantime the spouse can be denied access to their loved one and the hospital or adversarial family members may step in to make decisions contrary to the patient's wishes.

Likewise, standing in lawsuits for wrongful death are denied to gay spouses. This means that if a drunk driver were to kill one partner the other would be denied the right in the courts to sue the driver for wrongful death. If a couple depend on two incomes straight couples are automatically allowed to sue for the wrongful death of a spouse to collect the lost income of the deceased person. However, since LGBT couples are legally considered simply "strangers" to each other, there is no provision or protection for the death of a partner by a wrongful act, leaving the survivor often destitute.

Often this same provision is used by insurance companies to fend off lawsuits when gay partners attempt to file on life insurance.

MIAMI - DECEMBER 08:  U.S. Army Captain Fouad ...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeIn my own brother's case, AETNA insurance tried to deny paying a life insurance claim for his partner of many years saying that because he was not a "legal spouse" he had no standing to sue for the funds because of a paperwork error by his partner's employer.

From Equalitymatters.org:

The family vacation cruise that Janice Langbehn, her partner Lisa Marie Pond and three of their four children set out to take in February 2007 was designed to be a celebration of the lesbian couple’s 18 years together. But when Pond suffered a massive stroke onboard before the ship left port and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, administrators refused to let Langbehn into the Pond’s hospital room. A social worker told them they were in an “anti-gay city and state.”

Langbehn filed a federal lawsuit charging the hospital with negligence and “anti-gay animus” in refusing to recognize her and the children as Pond’s family, even after a power of attorney was faxed to the hospital within an hour of their arrival. Pond, 39, was pronounced dead of a brain aneurysm about 18 hours after being admitted to Jackson’s Ryder Trauma Center. Langbehn said she was allowed in to see her partner only for about five minutes, as a priest gave Pond the last rites.


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