HHS asked to address advance directive issues

Guidance to ensure patients' wishes are followed

In a memorandum, President Obama has asked Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to develop guidance for hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid to ensure that patients' advance directives are respected.

Additionally, President Obama has requested regulations to ensure patients can designate visitors other than immediate family members.

"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," the memorandum states. "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. The rulemaking should take into account the need for hospitals to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances as well as the clinical decisions that medical professionals make about a patient's care or treatment." (Editor's note: To access the memorandum, go to www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-hospital-visitation.)