Monday, April 19, 2010

Heartbreaking

Steve Williams of care2.com has posted a truly heartbreaking story that highlights the importance of President Obama's memo requiring that LGBT couples have hospital visitation rights.  This story took place in Sonoma, California -- a progressive place that overwhelmingly supported gay marriage in the Prop 8 battle.  So if it could happen here, it could happen anywhere. The summary as reported by Williams is from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.  (I've actually summarized some of the the summaries.)
Clay [Greene] and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health. 

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital.

While Harold was hospitalized, Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.

Ignoring Clay entirely, the County focused on Harold, going so far as to petition the Court for conservatorship of his estate. Outrageously referring to Clay only as a “roommate” and failing to disclose their true relationship, the County continued to treat Harold as if he had no family. The County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Harold’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for his care.

Then, despite being granted only limited powers and with undue haste, the County arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.

Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Clay was kept from seeing Harold during this time, and his telephone calls were limited.
Three months later, Harold died in the nursing home he had been placed in, and Clay, because of the  County's actions, could not be at his partner's bedside during those final  months. With the exception of  but one photo album that Harold had painstakingly put together for Clay during his declining weeks of  life, Clay has been left without any  of his personal possessions to remind him of the 20-year  relationship he shared with  Harold as, to date, he has not been able to recover any of the items that were auctioned off.
Only the truly heartless could oppose Obama's memorandum after reading this story.

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