A Henderson, Nev. hospital is sticking to a policy requiring same-sex couples to secure a power of attorney before making medical decisions for each other, despite a state law granting registered domestic partnerships the same rights as married couples.
Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli checked into Spring Valley Hospital, July 20, with complications in Leon’s pregnancy. During the admissions process, the hospital accepted the couple’s health insurance which covers Leon through Simonelli’s work, but they would not allow Simonelli to be declared power of attorney if she suffered unforeseen problems.
The couple protested, and offering to retrieve their certificate of domestic partnership, but were told it would not be sufficient. Under the extreme stress of the health issues, the couple was not in the position to run to a lawyer and secure the agreement.
Leon ended up losing the baby.
“I am usually a big fighter. But I was so emotionally upset. It was a very bad day for us,” Simonelli told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We went there thinking we had the state’s backing, and then we were told we were wrong. It didn’t matter that we were registered domestic partners … It should matter.”
A hospital representative told the newspaper that their policy requires gay couples have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other. When asked if she was aware of Nevada’s domestic-partnership law, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone.
Nevada’s law reads: “Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”
There is no penalty for an entity not providing the rights and benefits to same-sex couples. The couple’s case has at least one lawmaker considering a bill to “add teeth” to the law.
“What really happens now if they deny your rights? Not much,” Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal. “We need a remedy.”
The couple does not wish to file a complaint, but hope their story makes others aware of the need for change.