Death and LGBT Rights: Why It Matters
Yesterday I wrote a post about my conversion to being pro LGBT rights. Here’s an excerpt:
Not only were the bereaved LGBT partners denied funeral arrangement rights, they were also denied
social security benefits,
next-of-kin hospital visitation rights,
spousal funeral and bereavement leave,
next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions,
government death benefits
and inheritance rights.
Today is a good day. Today, love can extend from life to death.
Today, America recognizes that those who love us in life can ALSO be the ones who take care of us in death.
It’s important to note that one of the actual cases that SCOTUS ruled on was this: James Obergefell simply wanted his name listed as “spouse” on his deceased husband’s Ohio death certificate. James wasn’t trying to make a political statement. He had been John Arthur’s partner for 20 years and his husband (he was married in Washington D.C.) for a few months. John died of ALS and the state of Ohio refused to allow James to be listed as his husband. Thus, Obergefell v. Hodges was born — like much of the LGBT movement — out of death.
After I hit publish on my “How Death and Dying Changed My Perspective on LGBT Rights” yesterday, within a few hours I received a message from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. He wrote,
If you use this, please make it anonymous. I could actually lose my license for this.
When I was a pretty new nurse in the ICU, I took care of a gentleman named Matthew who was dying of a hospital-acquired infection. He had minor surgery at a different facility, and came to us in very critical condition. However, he was well enough to tell us that his partner, John was to make all medical and legal decisions for him. He had not spoken to anyone in his family for about thirty years. They disowned him when he came out as gay.
Matthew signed the appropriate paperwork and later that night he was intubated, sedated, and eventually became extremely unstable.
John never left his bedside. It was obvious that he was very much in love with my patient. Over the next several days, he told me about their life together. When it became obvious that Matthew was not going to get well, John called my patient’s parents. He felt like they would never forgive themselves if they didn’t see him before he died.
His parents walked into the ICU, ordered John out, and began throwing a fit. John eventually said that he would go to the waiting room for a little while, because he was worried that Matthew could hear the anger and hate spewing out of his parents.
His family demanded to see the attending physician, the house supervisor, and eventually the on-call executive for the facility. They wanted John barred from the hospital immediately. The parents argued that they were my patient’s legal next of kin, and that they would sue if the decision making was not granted to them.
The hospital caved.
The nurses did not.
We snuck John into Matthew’s room every time the mother left. He died about 36 hours later.
John did not get to make Matthew’s funeral arrangements. He was not holding Matthew’s hand when he died. His mother sat in a chair across the room, staring at the son she alienated until he finally died, alone. His father never came back to the hospital after he established his dominance over John.
The SCOTUS has made it impossible for the spouse of an LGBT person to be hurt as John was hurt. It is about time.
I am thankful.
This is why LGBT rights matter.