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Dale Carpenter is a University of Minnesota law professor

U of M expert available to discuss President Obama's order giving gay people the right to visit their partners in hospitals

April 16, 2010

President Barack Obama ordered new rules Thursday that will give gays and lesbians the right to visit their partners in the hospital and make decisions about their care, a marriage benefit sometimes denied to same-sex couples. A University of Minnesota expert who can discuss the issue is:

Dale Carpenter, University of Minnesota Law School professor

"The president's order has great symbolic importance as a recognition of the real needs of gay couples and families in times of medical crisis," Carpenter says. "It's practical significance is less clear."

Gay people may already designate a partner to make medical decisions for them and grant them access in the hospital. Most, but not all, hospitals recognize this right without much trouble.

The order does not set up a "domestic partnership" system that automatically triggers a right of hospital access the way, say, a marriage would. So the person must still take some action to designate who may visit. That's not a problem in cases
where the person is conscious and capable of making such a designation ahead of time or even while in the hospital, he says.

"But during the times when access would be most needed, as in a serious automobile accident or stroke that renders the person unconscious or unable to make decisions, the Obama order does not guarantee a long-term partner any access," Carpenter says.

To interview Carpenter, contact Patty Mattern, University News Service, mattern@umn.edu or (612) 624-2801 or Cynthia Huff, Law School, at huffx070@umn.edu or (612) 625-6691.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.unews.umn.edu. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: Law School

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