Demand Nevada Hospital Revise Policy about Medical Decisions by Same-Sex Partners

Target: Leonard Freehof, CEO of Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada

Goal: Don’t require that same-sex partners have medical power of attorney in order to make a decision in a crisis

A lesbian couple recently encountered complications at a Nevada hospital when they were told upon arrival that hospital policy would require them to have medical power of attorney for one partner to make a decision about the other in a crisis, even though they were legally certified domestic partners. Brittney Leon went to check into Spring Valley Hospital, accompanied by her partner Terri-Ann Simonelli, due to pregnancy complications; however, they were told that without medical power of attorney, Simonelli could not make decisions for Leon, even though they offered to produce the certificate designating them as legal domestic partners.

It is not uncommon for gay couples, legally partnered or not, to encounter issues like this in medical situations. In this case, the situation was made even more morally and legally questionable by the fact that Nevada’s domestic partnership laws ensure the exact same legal protections, rights, and benefits as marriage. Additionally, a 2010 mandate by President Obama demanding that all hospitals extend visitation rights to same-sex partners and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health decisions for them should have allowed Simonelli to be designated decision-maker in case of crisis. Apparently, both of these legal assurances were ignored.

Following the event, when a reporter from the Las Vegas Review Journal asked a public relations representative from the hospital if she was aware of Nevada’s domestic partnership laws, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up immediately. Ask the hospital to change its policies about gay couples’ right to make medical decisions and step into line with both state and national policy.


Dear Spring Valley Hospital CEO Leonard Freehof,

I am writing to you in response to a recent event at your hospital where lesbian couple Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli were told during the admissions process for Leon that it would be impossible for Simonelli to make medical decisions for Leon in a crisis because she did not hold medical power of attorney, which hospital policy dictated was required for gay couples. However, Leon and Simonelli are legally certified domestic partners, which in Nevada means that they hold the exact same rights, benefits and protections as a married couple, as stipulated in Nevada’s domestic partnership laws. When they offered to produce the certificate designating them as such, hospital staff refused, insisting it wouldn’t matter.

Even if Leon and Simonelli weren’t certified domestic partners, a 2010 mandate from President Obama guaranteeing same-sex partners visitation rights and ensuring that all patients be allowed to choose who gets to make decisions for them in a crisis should have removed any question of Simonelli’s right to make decisions for Leon in a crisis, regardless of her lack of medical power of attorney. However, your hospital’s policy apparently will not bow to either this national mandate or state law.

I ask that you immediately revise hospital policy and allow gay couples, or at least gay couples who are certified domestic partners, to make health decisions for one another in a crisis regardless of whether they hold medical power of attorney. Currently, your hospital’s policies are both discriminatory and questionably legal, creating unnecessary stress for couples in what is may be an emotionally tumultuous time. Changing your policies to step in line with state law and national mandates is the ethically and legally correct thing to do.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Flickr via Tomas

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