HHS directs hospital inspectors to review visitation rights

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Sept. 19, 2011

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An update to federal health regulations would ensure a patient's right to have a same-sex partner visit him or her while in the hospital, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced.

HHS updated its health and safety standards for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals to clarify the rights of patients to choose their visitors. Federal officials sent a Sept. 7 letter outlining the equal visitation rights to state survey agencies, which inspect hospitals. The department had finalized a federal rule regarding visitation in November 2010.

Federal rules allow patients to select who may visit them during an inpatient stay. Visitors can be a family member, spouse, domestic partner or any other person, HHS said. Patients can withdraw consent for visitation at any time.

HHS also directs hospitals to defer to patients' wishes regarding representation. The department instructs surveyors to check that hospital policy clearly explains a patient's rights regarding visitation and any unit-specific restrictions on visiting hours.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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