Hospital tales

I can’t stop thinking about this story, which enrages and saddens me.  Unfortunately, I know of several people in same-sex relationships who were denied information or access to their partners despite having health care proxies or power of attorney for health care.

As commenter more cowbell notes, this is a call for reform on the federal level.  Even if same-sex marriage is recognized across the country, I think we’re still going to hear these stories.  But we’ve got to take that step.

Because as Tim Wise says, perceptions follow institutional realities.  And what we need to do is make equality a reality.

(Meandering thoughts follow.)

Part of the reason I can’t stop thinking about the Times story is because I can’t get over the complete inhumanity displayed by the people in the hospital.  There probably aren’t many worse things than dying alone.  Except for dying alone when you are prevented from being with the ones you love.  And those who love you.

Some years back I flew out to be with a friend who was dying.  I arrived at the hospital quite late and visiting hours were over.  When I explained to the woman at the front desk, she looked at me and said, “She’s your sister, right?”  I said no, we weren’t related.  And the woman fixed me with a look and said, loudly, “She’s your SISTER, right?”

May blessings find you wherever you are, ma’am.

So I was sitting by my friend’s bedside when a resident came in.  He didn’t say hello.  He didn’t introduce himself.  No, the first thing he did was challenge my presence.  Because I wasn’t supposed to be there, yanno.  So I told him that I flew in to be with my sister.

What did this dickwad say?

“And how exactly is SHE (pointing at my friend) YOUR (pointing at me) sister?”

I said, “It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m the only one here, aren’t I?”

Later another doctor stopped me to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be on the floor.  (What is it about doctors, anyway?  Why do they even give a shit?)  But when I told him I was with my sister, he said, “Oh, okay.”

Ten bucks says you can guess which two people were black and which one was white.  (Unfortunately, as in many of my stories, the evil protagonist is of the paler species.)

This story to me is about who looks like family.  And like a lesbian couple, two people of a different race don’t look like family.  I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being called to the ER and the hospital in several dire circumstances, and my experience has been that people (white people, in these particular cases) aren’t challenged or questioned or even given a second glance when they say they are the wife or the sister or brother of a matching-race patient.

But I also wonder about people’s general lack of empathy when it looks like their paramount agenda is to keep people separated when death is imminent.

Another thing that struck me about the New York Times story was that at one point the priest was giving Lisa Pond last rites.  He was allowed to see her; I assume he did not make repeated requests to do so.  And this made me think about something that happened to me a number of years ago.  I had a serious, life-threatening event and was not expected to pull through.  I came to consciousness to find a priest giving me last rites.  Unfortunately what I said to him is largely unprintable.  (My apologies, father, but I am not Catholic.)

I always thought this was objectionable because of the religious aspect, but now after reading the Times story one thought comes to mind:

Where was my mother?

Why wasn’t my mother sitting next to me and holding my hand?  Because I know she was there.  Because I know she knew.  But the hospital privileged a priest, a stranger, a man who did not even represent my religion, over my own mother.

I was eleven years old.

People suck, and people are stupid.  But suckage and stupidity and racism and other -isms need to be fought through the legal system as well as on an individual level.  Because otherwise it’s just going to be same shit, different day.

One thought on “Hospital tales

  1. What I wonder is – if one member of a het married couple is in the hospital, does the other one have to prove s/he is the husband or wife? I’ve never been in that situation, but I’ve also NEVER heard of a husband or wife being refused access because, oh I don’t know, they left their marriage license at home or whatever. Which leads me to suspect that if the claimed relationships are in an expected configuration, the hospital just doesn’t question it.

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