(WASHINGTON) -- Patients at nearly every hospital in the country will now be allowed to decide who has visitation rights and who can make medical decisions on their behalf -- regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or family makeup -- under new federal regulations that took effect Tuesday.
The rules, which apply to hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, were first proposed by President Obama in an April memorandum and later implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services after a period of public review.
They represent a landmark advance in the rights of same-sex couples and domestic partners who heretofore had no legal authority to be with a hospitalized partner because they were either not a blood relative or spouse.
Hospitals must now inform patients, or an attending friend or family member, of their rights to visitors of their choosing. The policy also prohibits discrimination against visitors based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
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