Can a Hospital Deny Visitation Rights? What You Need to Know and How to Protect Them

Hospital visitation rights are the rights of patients to choose who can visit them in the hospital and who can make medical decisions for them in case they are unable to do so.

These rights are important for patients and their loved ones, especially for those who are not legally or biologically related, such as same-sex partners, friends, or caregivers.

Can a Hospital Deny Visitation Rights?
Can a Hospital Deny Visitation Rights?| NMC HEALTH

However, there may be situations where hospitals may restrict or deny visitation rights to certain visitors, based on their policies or the patient’s condition.

In this article, we will explore the following questions:

  • What are the federal and state laws that protect hospital visitation rights?
  • What are the common reasons for hospital visitation restrictions?
  • What can patients and visitors do to protect their hospital visitation rights?

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Federal and State Laws on Hospital Visitation Rights

In 2011, the federal government issued a new rule that requires any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding to allow patients to decide who can visit them in the hospital, regardless of whether they are legally or biologically related to the patient.

The rule also requires hospitals to inform patients of their visitation rights and to respect their wishes, unless there is a clinical reason to limit visitation.

The rule also allows patients to designate a person who can act as their representative and make medical decisions for them if they are incapacitated.

However, the federal rule does not apply to hospitals that do not receive federal funding, such as some religious or private hospitals.

In addition, some states may have their own laws or regulations that govern hospital visitation rights, which may be more or less restrictive than the federal rule.

For example, some states may allow patients to appoint a health care proxy or a durable power of attorney for health care, while others may only recognize a legal spouse or a close relative as a surrogate decision maker.

Therefore, it is important for patients and visitors to check the laws and policies of their state and the hospital they are visiting before they go.

Common Reasons for Hospital Visitation Restrictions

Even if a hospital is subject to the federal rule or a state law that protects hospital visitation rights, there may be situations where the hospital may limit or restrict access to certain visitors, based on the following reasons:

1.The Patient’s Condition

Even hospitals with liberal visitation policies will limit or restrict access to patients when care providers believe there is a medical reason to do so.

For example, if the patient needs rest, has a compromised immune system, or has a highly contagious disease.

2.The Hospital’s Policies

Hospitals may have their own policies or procedures that regulate visitation, such as visiting hours, number of visitors, or infection control measures.

These policies may vary depending on the type of unit, the level of care, or the availability of staff and resources.

3.The Patient’s Preferences

Patients have the right to choose who can visit them and who cannot, and they can also withdraw or deny consent to any visitor at any time.

However, if the patient is unable to communicate their preferences, the hospital may rely on the patient’s representative or surrogate decision maker to make that decision.

4.The Safety and Privacy of Others

Hospitals may also restrict visitation to protect the safety and privacy of other patients, visitors, or staff.

For example, hospitals may deny access to visitors who are disruptive, violent, intoxicated, or pose a security risk3.

How to Protect Your Hospital Visitation Rights

If you are a patient or a visitor who wants to protect your hospital visitation rights, here are some steps you can take:

1.Prepare Advance Health Care Directives

Advance health care directives are legal documents that allow you to designate someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated (health care proxy) and to make clear your preferences for life-saving procedures (living will).

These documents can help ensure that your wishes are respected and that your chosen representative can access your medical information and visit you in the hospital. You can find your state’s forms and instructions on how to complete them online.

2.Talk to Your Primary Care Physician

You should inform your primary care physician about your advance health care directives and your preferred visitors, and ask them to include this information in your medical records.

You should also provide copies of your documents to your physician, your representative, and your loved ones, and keep a copy with you at all times.

3.Communicate with the Hospital Staff

When you are admitted to the hospital, you should ask for a copy of the hospital’s visitation policy and inform the staff about your visitation rights and preferences.

You should also introduce your representative and your visitors to the staff and explain their relationship to you.

If you encounter any problems or conflicts with the staff, you should try to resolve them calmly and respectfully, and ask to speak to a supervisor or a patient advocate if necessary.

Hospital visitation rights are an important aspect of patient care and dignity, and they can also benefit the patient’s health and well-being.

However, these rights are not absolute and may be subject to limitations or restrictions by the hospital or the patient.

Therefore, it is important for patients and visitors to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and to take proactive steps to protect them.


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