President Barack Obama is issuing a directive he says will make it easier for hospital patients, particularly gays and lesbians, to receive visitors and choose who will make medical decisions on their behalf.
Obama is asking the Health and Human Services secretary to begin the process of putting in place federal rules to ensure that hospitals respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. The order covers hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid.
Under Obama's directive, those designated, including people with powers of attorney and health care proxies, are to have visitation privileges equal to immediate family members.
Obama says gays and lesbians and other Americans have been barred from the bedsides of their partners or loved ones.