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2002
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June 2002

Individuals May Now Obtain Their Health Information Records AU (VIC) 28 JUN

March 2002

Couples Must Be Ready for Medical Crises US 04 MAR
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Individuals May Now Obtain Their Health Information Records

AUSTRALIA, Victoria - On 1 March 2002 the Health Privacy Principles (HPPs) in the Health Records Act 2001 took effect as voluntary standards, reports the Law Institute of Victoria.

This was intended to give organisations an opportunity to practice applying the HPPs on a voluntary basis leading up to 1 July 2002 when the Act comes into full operation.

From 1 July the HPPs will be legally binding.

Individuals will have a right to apply under the Act for their health information from that date.

The enforcement regime in the Act will apply to situations where health information is collected, used, disclosed or held by an organisation on or after 1 July 2002.

(Law Institute of Victoria - Friday Facts 28 June 2002
Web: www.liv.asn.au/
Email: frifacts@liv.asn.au)


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Couples Must Be Ready for Medical Crises

UNITED STATES - A lawsuit alleging that a hospital prevented a gay man from being with his dying partner in his final lucid moments is spotlighting an ongoing problem for unmarried couples: Finding ourselves in medical crises and frightened of how we might be treated, reports the Detroit News.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the lawsuit Feb. 27 against the University of Maryland Medical System, is urging unmarried couples to arm ourselves with legal documents and work with local hospitals now to ensure their staffs will treat partners the same as legal family in medical crises. The group also urges couples to give copies of their legal documents - such as partnership registrations and health care proxies - to their family doctors, so they can be called if a conflict arises. And couples should keep copies of these documents with them always.

"We know this problem exists all over the country, where partners have to argue their way into a hospital room to see a loved one," says Lambda attorney David Buckel. "Sometimes they find themselves waving their documents - a domestic partnership registration and a durable power of attorney - and many people have not gotten those things."

The lawsuit was filed by Bill Flanigan, a San Francisco man who had driven with his partner, Robert Daniel, across the country to visit with their families before Robert died of AIDS.

A couple for five years and registered domestic partners, they'd bought a rundown Edwardian house that they threw themselves into restoring - painting it yellow, remodeling the bathroom, landscaping the tiny yard. "We were soul mates," says Bill. "There was a chemistry between us that we both felt the moment we met. We knew we wanted to spend our lives together."

While Robert's health had taken a rollercoaster ride over their five years, the couple felt he was strong enough to make the cross-country trip to see his mother and sisters in October. But when they were still 75 miles away from where one of his sister's lived in Virginia, the 34-year-old Robert became desperately ill.

Bill took Robert to a small Maryland hospital, where, he says, he gave a staff person the medical power of attorney showing that Robert had extended him the right to make medical decisions and be with him during an emergency. Robert specifically had not wanted to be subjected to breathing tubes or other artificial means of keeping him alive if his situation became hopeless. Robert's condition was so serious that the hospital sent him by ambulance to a trauma center in Baltimore run by the University of Maryland Medical System.

Bill drove separately. He charges that once he arrived at the trauma center, he was told he wasn't legal family and couldn't see Robert. A battle between Bill and the hospital staff went on for four hours, he charges in his lawsuit, despite his telling the staff that he had given the medical power of attorney document to the first hospital and believed it should be in Robert's medical file.

"My partner, in his last few conscious moments of his life, was alone, even though I was downstairs begging to comfort him," Bill says. "Not only didn't I get to comfort him, we were never able to say goodbye to each other."

Bill says when Robert's mother and sister Christina finally arrived, all three were allowed into Robert's room. By then, Robert was unconscious and a breathing tube had been inserted. He died three days later.

The University of Maryland Medical Center issued a statement that it hasn't found anything "that substantiates these allegations."

Courts will have to decide the merits of Bill's charges. But regardless of that outcome, all unmarried couples - whether gay or heterosexual - should read Lambda's action kit, available at www.lambdalegal.org.

The time to find out how local hospitals will treat our relationships is before we find ourselves in a medical emergency. We should all be a part of that preventive medicine.

(Detroit News 04 March 2002 - Deb Price
Web: detnews.com/
Email: Letters@detnews.com
by way of Graham Underhill)


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