Healthcare News & Insights

Why did hospital deny gay spouse visitation rights?

A Maryland hospital is under fire after a patient and her family alleged that the hospital wouldn’t allow her same-sex partner to visit her. Last November, Kathryn Wilderotter had a seizure while driving and crashed her car. She was taken to Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park for treatment.

Linda Cole, Wilderotter’s partner of 11 years and her legal spouse, arrived at the hospital, identified herself as Wilderotter’s partner …  and wasn’t allowed to see her. Only after Wilderotter’s sister also arrived was Cole given access to her partner.

Such a denial is a violation of both federal hospital visitation rights and Maryland law.

A hospital representative called the couple six weeks later to apologize, blaming poor communication and a new employee’s misunderstanding of the law for the denial. The hospital said the incident wasn’t an example of discrimination and that it’s reviewing patient rights training to make sure no one on staff makes such an error in the future.

Wilderotter and Cole weren’t satisfied. Cole has filed a complaint with the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over the incident.

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  1. “Only after Wilderotter’s sister also arrived was Cole given access to her partner.” Sounds like someone is out to make some quick money. After all, the hospital did make the correction and granted access to the partner. I mean what harm did the patient suffer from this? Don’t get me wrong, if the partner had continued to be denied access I could see filing suit. I just don’t think the pair have much to go on at this point.

  2. PerryMedic says:

    I am assuming that most people on this forum are healthcare providers. As such, we should know that dignity and respect for people are components of patient care, a goal we should all be striving to improve. MMAN wants to know “what harm did the patient suffer?” He obviously missed the point of the article since this article isn’t about the care the patient received, but rather the violation of federal and state law regarding the spouse’s visitiation rights. The harm is to the patient’s spouse who was denied access to the patient. It is less likely for this type of incident to happen to opposite-sex couples and is a reminder to all hospitals to educate their staff. The article says that the hospital called to apologize “six weeks later”. Perhaps if the hospital would have been more prompt about the apology the outcome would be different. MMAN’s ignorance truly shines through with his statement “looks like someone is out to make some quick money.” The article reports that the couple has complained to The Joint Commission and to CMS. In simpler words, there is no mention of them suing the hospital.

  3. Isn’t it possible that since the last names were different and identification as a spouse weren’t clear the employee was tring to protect the patients privacy. What would the outcry have been if the employee had allowed someone in to see patient who had profit in mind-attorneys, new media ect.