Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wedding Bells Are Ringing!

Since midnight last night, Eastern Standard Time, folks in New York who identify as gay and lesbian have been afforded the legal right to marriage. A union between two people who love each other. One of the first couples to marry was a lesbian couple in their upper 70s and 80s - one using a walker, one in a wheelchair, who had shared their lives together for so many years, but not been recognized as a unified couple by the law.

Congratulations to all those who have been afforded the civil right to have their love for each other formally recognized by the State!

As a Doctor, I wanted to discuss this issue from the perspective of Medicine. Although it has been less likely to occur in New York, up until today Doctors and Nurses had a legal obligation to ask the "significant other" of a gay or lesbian couple to step out of the room when discussing the health issues surrounding the patient. Regardless of how many years the couple may have been together, the patient's loved one was not considered to have the legal right to make health decisions for him/her, unless they had the foresight to make a legal document naming each other as proxy to make health decisions. In a heterosexual marriage, it is assumed and legal that the patient's spouse has full legal authority to make health decisions for the patient if they are incapacitated. Now, with couples legally marrying, the same-sex spouse of a patient will also be afforded the legal right - and human dignity - of being in the room to make health decisions for their spouse.

No human being should have to spend their last few moments on Earth alone. What a blessing that this law will ensure that doesn't happen in NYC any longer for same-sex couples.

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