Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


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Poetry, if you like that sort of thing
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Articles on World War II
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Editor’s Pick
APRIL 16, 2010 9:35AM

The Obama Memo: Opening the Hospital Doors

Rate: 36 Flag


One of my favorite cousins was at one time a young teenager studying to become the next organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  When he converted to another religion, that dream became an impossibility for him.  He later became the organist at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and is now organist for one of the Greek Orthodox communities in Seattle.

Several years ago he found himself in the most impossible of situations, suddenly in a hospital when someone he loved dearly unexpectedly took ill and was in danger of death.  Because he was not legally considered to be family he was not allowed in the room or at the bedside of his dying loved one.

Cordell, like so many others, suffered the frustration and indignity of watching someone beloved die and being helpless to attend to them.

Thursday night President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to hospitals changing all that.  Inspired by the circumstances of another Seattle-area woman, Janice Langbehn, who was similarly denied visitation rights in 2007 when her partner Lisa Pond was hospitalized in a Miami hospital after suffering an aneurysm on a cruise ship, the memo instructs all hospitals which participate in Medicare or Medicaid to "respect the rights of patients to designate visitors."

Although seen as a victory for gay and lesbian partners particularly who have often been subject to discrimination in hospital settings, it is not limited to those groups.  According to the memo:

"It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy.  You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability." 

President Obama called Langbehn on Thursday shortly before issuing the White House memo.  As she reported on her Facebook page, "At 4:32 PDT, President Obama called me about Lisa's tragic death and our inability to see her.  . .The President was very gracious and apologized for what we went through.  I thanked him for this legacy for our children."

David Smith of The Human Rights Campaign  indicated the organization had been working with the administration for months to see Thursday's action realized.

The memo makes it possible for all who are hospitalized in U.S. hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid to designate their own visitors and health care surrogates in addition to or in the absence of next of kin.

It's too late for many who've suffered indignities in the past and the inability to be at the bedside of dying loved ones, too late for my cousin Cordell who still keenly feels that loss and that frustration many years later, too late for Janice Langbehn and her children.  But it insures that what happened to them will never happen again to others who should be afforded the same rights as next of kin.


Janice Langbehn, who was prevented from seeing her partner Lisa Pond in a Miami hospital in 2007, finally received apologies from some individual nurses and staff of the hospital, although the hospital itself never issued a formal apology.  A lawsuit against the hospital was dismissed in 2009.
Janice Langbehn responds to the news that President Barack Obama issued a memorandum Thursday insuring that patients could designate their own visitors and health care surrogates, and tells CNN's Anderson Cooper about her phone call from the president.


On the Web:  

Presidential Memorandum - Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies - The White House 

Janice Langbehn - Facebook 



For Cordell.  (photo taken at Inn at the Market, Seattle, Washington)



(top photo credit:  legalout.com) 

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Patients should have the right to say who can and who cannot be at their bedsides, particularly when they're dying. Period. Good for your president.

Of course, the yowling masses will focus only on the "same sex" part of that larger and more critical issue.
It's a beginning. R
Oh that radical, socialist Obama strikes again, trying to make sense and as you say open doors. Slowlly, slowly it seems we are making progress listening to people when they are at their most vulnerable. Thank you for posting.
hallelujah! and about time
(CNN's headline is slanted, as usual)
An important first step! Too bad such common-sense generosity of spirit needs a law. And I hate that it is too late for so many people.
This made my night last night!
This is incredible news, and a victory for equal rights in America. Barack Obama is not a screamer. He quietly puts things in envelopes and slips them under the door. This is how reality changes in America today. Thank you, President Obama. And thank you, Kathy.
Kathy, I was so, so happy to hear this news.
At the risk of being a smug Canadian (again), I have to say that when my gay friend's lover was hospitalized and eventually died, some 15 or so years ago, there was no question of restriction of access, none whatsoever. Further, my friend is receiving a government death benefit payment with respect to his lover. (Nowadays they could be legally married, but even beforehand there seemed to be no problem. Now I can't speak for other cases - I only know this one.)

As to the larger issue, as Boanerges1 says: Patients should have the right to say who can and who cannot be at their bedsides, particularly when they're dying. Period.
Obama rules! You know only a Democrat could do this. The man has a big heart. Even if some of my favorite programs have had funding cuts under his budget. Evil hospitals--what REAL reason did they have for denying visits to patients. Scared of local bigwigs whose kids turned out to be gay?? Did religious hospitals think this enforced their religion and government hospitals followed along? Whoever thought this up is roasting in hell for it.
Thanks for the details on this. It's long past due.
Thank you President Obama!
This is no more than humanity and how it could have been denied in the past is incredible. I admire our president so much and even more if that is possible for this. Well written and thank you for posting. Rated.
Finally! I have never understood hospital policy on this topic.
Now the dying patient will have a better chance to be at peace.
Obama is cutting the strings of trying to please everyone and getting nothing done, a lot like Carter. He is no longer like Carter, he has become his own man and if you think about it, who in the U.S. would you rather have in the White House at this point in time? I can think of no one!
Good news indeed. We're one step closer to repeal of DADT.
It is sad that a memo from the President of the United States was needed in this case. The fact that common decency has to be mandated by the government is a sad commentary on us as a society.

Where is our compassion? What the hell has sexual prefrence got to do with anything? I wonder why the lawsuit against the hospital was dismissed because that is one hospital that should have been made to pay through the nose for their insenitivity.
He just keeps getting better anbd better.
Thank you for bringing this news here . . . this is good news indeed . . .

Praise be . . .
It's about time!
I'm excited to see Obama finally taking action on this, though I think the realization may still be a while down the road. Here's hoping Secretary Sebelius acts quickly on the memo!
Kathy, you make an important point. This will affect a much broader group of people, and I hope that the White House will talk about it that way.
Thanks for posting this! I had medical power of attorney for my best friend who died ten years ago and was able to visit her in the hospital. Since she had no family in the area, it was important that I was there for her.

I'm glad that you clarified that this has far wider impact than just the lesbian and gay community, although I'm glad same sex partners will no longer be denied the right to visit a sick or dying lover in the hospital now. Rated
For Cordell....indeed, and many others. Heartbreaking, yet full of great hope..
Very nice. But I'd prefer being able to marry the man I've loved and lived with for 39 years.

Just an odd little gay quirk of mine doncha know.
As would have Cordell.
This is very good news.
It has always been one of my greatest fears that I would not be allowed to see my partner if she were hospitalized--though we have been partners for 17 years, and friends for 30 years. There is no way I could begin to convey how much this will mean to me, and to millions of others. Thanks for posting this.
I returned to research some coal mine stuffs.
Thanks Kathy R.. How Y do all this research?

Wow. Hello. No joke? No Halloween? Alleluia!
I hope those you delete repost their comments.
If I read this correct, Yea! Barack Obama. Heal!
Kathy. Your Bio?
You a old geezer?
You seem to clear.
You have a staff?

You write as crisp as a nocturnal whippoorwill bird on a sad and grief stricken day.

Night/Day, bless.
Barack Obama has to remain awake at night grieving over the big Mess Mess we see!

No Busy Little Beaver with a commonsense approach to sentient/ wholistic/wholism,
HOLISM remedies,
cancan do a fast gig.
Barack Obama tries?
I believe so ... I Hope.

Gig? I would not want his 'servile' position. I bet He anguishes. He needs the old big Sticks.
Poko? Big lumber poles.
Poko Sticks to see good?
See higher and furthers.

O God? Goood? Coo Coo.
O Cookie Monster. Big Bird.
He can wear frilly Polka dots.
Polka dot white and yellow dots.

Barack Obama might walk taller.
We can ask`How do your soul do?
How is the weather up there Sunny?
Where is FBI agent with alias`Sonny?
Sonny said the DoJ needs Sane Policy.
Sonny apologized to be under Mr. Bush.
It's all recorded in court records in PA.
O ignore? its old war, bank arrest, jail stuffs.
H20 under a creaking PA Red Cover Bridge?
apology. In PA Smithery knows. Kiss at bridge!

Amish ride a wooden buggy and smooch in PA!
Honest. You do Prevention Care Sane Policies!
If Ya kiss under a red PA bridge Ya feel healthy!

What's Happening. okay, Patience? okay suffers!
Patience mean we will have to suffer some more!
I tire of bad baloney.
Hospitals can save.
I know the VA does.
I'm surprised, alive.

I use to read The National Geographic, McCalls, but no Nancy Drew, and I watched TV.
I loved`The Pink Panther, and Salvadore Dali's black 5th Avenue's black panther too.
Confucius confused.
Stop shenanigans.
You gonna be kicked?
Dali did`The Persistence of Memory, and `Christ the St John of The Cross. I read Dali is surrealist. He painted about dream images. Realism.
Salvador Dali did have a black panther pet that he walked around in New York City.
I am not suggesting that someone tape a sign that ask`Kick Me. People might literally 'kick you' if you attend a Tea Bag event. sad.

The Tea-shindigs inform that the Nation needs a excellent sociologist to assist you.
Ask Sam Kass? Sam cook.
Sam Kass can cook geese?
He can sing at dinnertime?
He has a raspy-cook-voice!
He cook popcorn and beet!
He brew Chase & Sanborn!
Sam help Ya cooking fudge!
Listen to old Jack Benny, Don Ameche, W.C. Fields, and West Virginia coal minors today!
Buy cheap animal crackers!
Vegans eat animal cookies!
kooky. I best cultivate leek!

I came back for something.
I was 'moved' ref True/no?
I hope it's not a false sham.

DCs not Norman Rockwell.
I was gonna read ref` Coal.
Coal mine or`Woolworth's.

Woolworth's served ice cream.
You could slurp fountain soda.

I hope he does more and more.
I heard Barack as the candidate.
If you are in a VAMC for a couple of months, You either watch TV or sniff tulips, kale greens, and if you don't get caught you can go AWOL. Shush. You get sick from war?

You just sneak into Adams Morgan with the Ethiopian nurse. Those Ethiopian soccer player sure are lucky. I can't imagine how they can keep their eye on the black and white ball. I'd be looking into the audience. It be east to accidently kick Jack Benny, Tiger Woods,
Ray Charles,`
Love a woman.
M.L.K. Ya Mom, Why?
Pa, and Ya rip up! Why?

No shred constitution.
Go cleans up a kitchen.
Get rids of the roaches.

Use Osage Orange Ball.
The green ball rids bug.
Beware of bedpost bug.
Osage range looks like:`
Green brain (no grey).
It's green, and real curly.
It drop to ground in Fall.

NSA bug thee Lady Bug.
I best go wash red beets.
perhaps misery love bed.
It ain't fun to snore alone.
It is about time. I want my best friend and boyfriend there when I'm dying. It absolutely needs to be the patient's choice.
Thanks for the comment, Art, always a pleasure. In this case, it was just a zealous finger deleting spambots that might have trapped a bona fide comment or two (I know it zapped Saturn's initial one), so I wanted to give people a heads up so they could repost, which Saturn did.
yay! unbelievable that she had the power of attorney papers and they still wouldn't let her even see her wife, much less make decisions. Why the heck was that lawsuit was dismissed? I think a legal crime was committed, not just a ethical one.
Did you see the movie "A Solitary Man"? It deals with this problem. Very sad. Sorry for your cousin, who looks like such a loving person. Things are slowly changing, too late for many.
It's a big deal that never should have been one at all. _r
Kathy. R. You too nice to delete Saturn.
She keeps showing her House with bargains.
It's comforting to know oowoocoocoo's Saturn.
I got to attend my daily coo coo loco AA OS meeting.
Kathy is too nice to delete ootoowww.coo.coo Saturn.
call Pope's cell # e-dot.com. too-two O, may Ya be blessed.
Buy ewes, rams, and learn to milk sheep for cheese. tease?
I was thinking about great EVERONA DAIRY Sheep Cheese.
I'll buy some lobster gloves , a milk bench, and a sheep stool.
I'll volunteer. Knead bread (Rumi Breadmaker). Cuts cheese.
Sheep cheese is best cut in very thin slivers. Try sheep cheese!
Pat Eliot M.D. has a artisanal Farmstead Sheep Cheese farm.
It can't hurt to cut the cheese. I sent some to` Con Chapman.
He sent his baseball book ref Yankees, and White House Sock.
The Tear Of The Gerbils. Or, the title was`A Year of Hamsters.
My partner and I were lucky 13 years ago when she went through surgery and chemo for breast cancer. I was never denied access to her and was always the person the doctors came out to speak with...BUT, as I said, we were lucky. We live in the Pacific Northwest. Now, gay and lesbian couples, no matter where they live in this country, are no longer at the mercy of individual hospitals. Thank you for posting this.
Some commenters have asked why this law is necessary at all, in that hospitals shouldn't have to restrict access in the first place. The reason is, as is commonly the case, thanks to our litigious society. The one thing that hospitals care about more than patient care or money is decreasing the risk of lawsuits. That's why when a mistake happens at a hospital, the doctors are all put on gag orders and the lawyers take over.

Hospitals in this case have been scared to death that if a non-married individual (i.e. gay partner) makes a decision for their loved one, and the outcome of the case is poor, then the patient's family could sue the hospital for allowing a non-blood relative to make crucial decisions in their family member's care, and until now, the patient's family could win the lawsuit. Note that the hospital is not at fault here - what's really going on is a battle of bigotry between the family member and the partner, but now the hospital has to pay legal fees and is dragged into a case that they had no intention of getting involved in.

By making this part of the law, President Obama takes the legal pressure off of hospitals, so that they can allow visitation with less fear of being unfairly targeted by families and partners with an axe to grind.
Rob Stone said it clearer than I could. Yes.
I was in the hospitals a few times post war.
I'll share:`
Annabella saw me through glass VAMC doors.
Glass doors prohibited her from being near me.
I'm Pa Pa.
She fills me with tears because of innocent`Good.
god, gooood,
but I recall my Granddaughters care and love when I was taken upstairs after a ER meeting. A civilian hospital sent me to DCs VAMC for immediate health attention. Annabella was five-years old, and Lewis Arthur James was still swimming in her good caring Mother's -
amniotic belly fluids.
Annabella was not allowed in the ER. I understand why. I was sad when the ICU would not allow children in the intensive care ICU ward. I watched a digital clock all day. I had a one-onone nurse watching me,
shaking me awake,
and ordering me to breath.
Honest. And for several days.
I remember the ICU experience.
I'd hear my beeper beep beep.
The staff kept saying`Breath!
I said`I am breathing`Slowly!
I was in denial? I was`in Peace.
I teased back each time wonderful nurse/doctors cared, woke me, and said `You can't forget to breath!
Smile. Looking back I see more clear!
My memor was `No fear this calming!
It was very entertaining and luring me?
I then would get startled to see in mind.
Mind eye. I think of not yet born Lewis.
Annabell, especially, and Yes Rob Stone.
Later, after eight days in ICU plus `Ouch!
I needed bed rest. Enjoy your ill-bed rest.
A couple or few weeks later, rules lax up.
Annabella would sit in my bed at a visit.
She ate my mashed potato, but no jello.
She's a reason, plus other people I love-
that I am here banging on the computer.
I could go on and on. I loved Charlie C.,!
Charlie Chapman old film were on Sats.
American University did Saturday film.
I never realized how much, O`childhood!
I missed much . We can't be sole know-all!
The early film artist influenced my Father.
He loved Charlie Chapman. Con C.? boogie.
He'd had taken you to the Supreme Courts.
He would cross-examine Con C. and jail Ya!
My Father would haul Ya to glass door cells!

O Jail cells.
O toss keys.
smash keys.'
gadget keys.
O okay okay.'
Yea Rob Rock!
He can toss a soft girls baseball at the jail cells glass kissing booth at a waiting room!
I hate law visits!
I love under sex!
O awe under six!
Once we humans grow up,
and act like we are Seven Up?
then we feel like a good burp.
Burping is very pleasurable.
No toss rocks at glass house.
Saturn lives in the Galaxies.
Saturn hates sneeze guards.
Wash jail visit Kiss window.
I hate kiss through jail hole.
Gross. Wardens never flush.
The in commode is so gross.
The bed is steel. Hard rock.
Buy jail inmates a mattress.
But a pillow for prisoner too.
But one and get Pope sex free.
Never happened,
and I hope never,
ever ever a hard?
I love all woman.
Buy Mattress from the recycled - Gates's `Department of Defense and ask for a comfortable black body bag? I was out eating with visitors a few ago. A had a baked potato. I mistakenly asked the waitress for a `
Body bag. Oy!
I need a beach!
I need to count!
I'll count waves!
I;ll report back in Eons to inform how many sea waves will crash through, start today!

How man sea water waves will be crashing on shore, and that's from today's -
Eternity -
until infinity.
I blame morels.
Obama would!

This is the best news gay people have heard in a long time
It's only a beginning though!
Thanks Rob Stone for your contextual explanation, which was my first thought after reading this post. Let there be more love, and understanding in this world. I only worry about retrograde fundamentalists attempting to turn back the clock, as is happening in the state of Virginia at this time.

Let common sense, and human decency prevail.
Bravo! wonderful news!
It's about time. What's ridiculous is that this hasn't been standard procedure for a long, long time. I sometimes wonder how messed up we are as a country that we have to fight to do things that are just obvious decency.
Another reason to make sure you're advance directives are in order. This doesn't have to be an expensive process (I think most hospitals make the forms available).

This memo will ensure that all hospitals who receive medicare/medicaid funding actually respect the living wills and advanced directives. Hospitals have a nasty habit, especially in LGBT-non-friendly states such as Florida, of fighting Advanced Directives and living wills because they'd rather lose the respect and future patronage of patients than lose their big time, often religiously inclined donors who oppose measures such as this