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"You don’t belong here": why powers of attorney and health care proxies aren’t enough

A favorite anti-LGBT talking point is “They don’t need marriage, they can do it all with powers of attorney and contracts”.  Of course the truth is that the government confers many rights and responsibilities with a civil marriage that cannot be garnered with a power of attorney or private contract.  For example, no private contract between two people can indemnify the signers from testifying against each other in court.

It is true that, in a perfect world, two people can use health care proxies and powers of attorney to set up a mutual safety net that allows each to make medical and end-of-life decisions for the another.  But we don’t live in a perfect world.  All it takes is for one person in a position of authority to ignore your valid contracts, and you might find yourself dying alone instead of in the arms of your loved one.

“But that never happens!”, cry the cold-hearted anti-family activists.  Oh, but it does happen.  Case in point: Sharon Reed and JoAnn Ritchie.

Imagine a different world – a world of full equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. A world where everyone has the same rights in housing, jobs, public accommodations, equal access to government benefits and equal protection of the law. That is not the world that JoAnn Ritchie and Sharon Reed found themselves in, on the night of September 3, 2005, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

Sharon, a psychotherapist, and JoAnn, a City of Seattle housing administrator, had been life-partners for 17 years, when JoAnn’s chronic illness worsened and she was hospitalized at the University of Washington Medical Center. On September 3, 2005, JoAnn was moved to the ICU and came under the care of a contract nurse, Karen Hulley, for the night. And on that night, their lives changed forever. Despite the fact that the University and JoAnn’s doctor permitted Sharon to be by her beside constantly, Nurse Hulley, repeatedly refused Sharon access to JoAnn’s room and bedside, continually evicting her from the room. By the time Sharon regained access to her partner the next morning, JoAnn’s condition had deteriorated, and she was heavily drugged. She died within a matter of hours.

The Insider Exclusive now goes “Behind the Headlines” to visit with Sharon Reed and her lawyer Judith Lonnquist, as they relive the “Long Night from Hell,” as Sharon watched – from a distance – the love of her life, JoAnn, slowly dying alone, all because of the cruelty and the insensitivity of the “Nurse from Hell,”Karen Hulley.

Sharon and JoAnn had copies of their power of attorney and health care proxy with them, and copies were attached to JoAnn’s chart.  And they had the cooperation and backing of JoAnn’s doctor.  But after hours, after the doctor had gone home and the night nurse was in charge, all respect for the law and contracts went out the window.  Whenever Sharon tried to be in the room with JoAnn to comfort her as she lay dying, the nurse screamed at her “You don’t belong here!”, and kicked her out.  So much for powers of attorney and health care proxy being a meaningful substitute for a civil marriage.

Go to the Insider Exclusive page and watch the 30 minute documentary “Same Sex Couple Discrimination.  Sharon Reed’s Story”, and read the supporting information.  The more hits the page gets, the more likely the documentary will be aired.

CommunityMy FDL

“You don’t belong here”: why powers of attorney and health care proxies aren’t enough

A favorite anti-LGBT talking point is “They don’t need marriage, they can do it all with powers of attorney and contracts”.  Of course the truth is that the government confers many rights and responsibilities with a civil marriage that cannot be garnered with a power of attorney or private contract.  For example, no private contract between two people can indemnify the signers from testifying against each other in court.

It is true that, in a perfect world, two people can use health care proxies and powers of attorney to set up a mutual safety net that allows each to make medical and end-of-life decisions for the another.  But we don’t live in a perfect world.  All it takes is for one person in a position of authority to ignore your valid contracts, and you might find yourself dying alone instead of in the arms of your loved one.

“But that never happens!”, cry the cold-hearted anti-family activists.  Oh, but it does happen.  Case in point: Sharon Reed and JoAnn Ritchie.

Imagine a different world – a world of full equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. A world where everyone has the same rights in housing, jobs, public accommodations, equal access to government benefits and equal protection of the law. That is not the world that JoAnn Ritchie and Sharon Reed found themselves in, on the night of September 3, 2005, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

Sharon, a psychotherapist, and JoAnn, a City of Seattle housing administrator, had been life-partners for 17 years, when JoAnn’s chronic illness worsened and she was hospitalized at the University of Washington Medical Center. On September 3, 2005, JoAnn was moved to the ICU and came under the care of a contract nurse, Karen Hulley, for the night. And on that night, their lives changed forever. Despite the fact that the University and JoAnn’s doctor permitted Sharon to be by her beside constantly, Nurse Hulley, repeatedly refused Sharon access to JoAnn’s room and bedside, continually evicting her from the room. By the time Sharon regained access to her partner the next morning, JoAnn’s condition had deteriorated, and she was heavily drugged. She died within a matter of hours.

The Insider Exclusive now goes “Behind the Headlines” to visit with Sharon Reed and her lawyer Judith Lonnquist, as they relive the “Long Night from Hell,” as Sharon watched – from a distance – the love of her life, JoAnn, slowly dying alone, all because of the cruelty and the insensitivity of the “Nurse from Hell,”Karen Hulley.

Sharon and JoAnn had copies of their power of attorney and health care proxy with them, and copies were attached to JoAnn’s chart.  And they had the cooperation and backing of JoAnn’s doctor.  But after hours, after the doctor had gone home and the night nurse was in charge, all respect for the law and contracts went out the window.  Whenever Sharon tried to be in the room with JoAnn to comfort her as she lay dying, the nurse screamed at her “You don’t belong here!”, and kicked her out.  So much for powers of attorney and health care proxy being a meaningful substitute for a civil marriage.

Go to the Insider Exclusive page and watch the 30 minute documentary “Same Sex Couple Discrimination.  Sharon Reed’s Story”, and read the supporting information.  The more hits the page gets, the more likely the documentary will be aired. (more…)

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer

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