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Recovering stroke victim: why civil marriage for gays matters

Many kudos to the diary posted by sheba on DKos for pointing me to this great article in The Oregonian on gay stroke victim David Bocci.

The article covers the difficulties of physical therapy and recovery of Bocci, but the larger issue is what happened surrounding his immediate care following the stroke. History was made:

Immediate treatment for such a stroke is a potent clot-dissolving drug called tPA, a high-tech Drano for the brain. New evidence suggests that the drug works better when applied directly to clots rather than intravenously.

But two obstacles loomed. The clot-busting treatment, not yet federally approved, required the signed consent of David or his guardian. And it had to be done within three hours of the stroke.

“Time is brain,” goes the catch phrase for stroke treatment.

The doctors explained the options and urgency to David’s longtime partner, Chris Bidwell, and David’s sister, Teri Gellos, who had rushed to the hospital.

Bidwell spoke up. I’m David’s husband, he told the doctors. The two, who live in Northeast Portland, had been together 15 years and had recently married — first in Canada in October 2003 and then in Portland on March 4, the day after Multnomah County pronounced same-sex marriages legal.

The hospital’s eight-page consent form described a risky but possibly lifesaving procedure. Chris skimmed the fine print and asked Teri, a critical care nurse, what she thought.

Sign it, she said.

…David became the first Oregon patient to undergo the direct clot-zapping stroke treatment — and his case marked the first known instance in Oregon in which a same-sex spouse gave consent to approve a potentially lifesaving treatment for an incapacitated patient.

David Bocci undergoes acupuncture treatment at a clinic in SE Portland. Bocci, with the support of his spouse, Chris Bidwell, tried every possible therapy to rehabilitate himself from a stroke which nearly paralyzed his right side. Photo: Michael Lloyd

The obvious comes to mind here — this is a clear example of why civil marriage for gays is essential. It’s also an example of why the resistance to this by the Right makes no sense whatsoever. How does Chris Bidwell’s ability to sign life-saving paperwork for his spouse affect Jerry Falwell’s or James Dobson’s marriage? How does this destroy our society? Why does the thought of even allowing legal arrangements such as health care power of attorney between committed gay partners scare the right? Virginia just deemed such arrangements invalid. Who is hurt by a private legal arrangement?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding