Opinion: Marriage equality is a matter of health as well as rights
December 10, 2010
Posted by Dr. Gabriel Garcia on mercurynews.com:
"Lisa Pond was on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida in February 2007 when she suffered a ruptured intracranial aneurysm and required emergency hospitalization. Her family was not allowed to see her for eight hours, and she died without them at her side.
"What made the Florida hospital deny them visiting rights?
"Pond's partner was a woman, Janice Langbehn, and their three children adopted, so the hospital ignored the fact that Langbehn had power of attorney for Pond's health care. When Langbehn lost a civil lawsuit against the hospital in April, President Barack Obama stepped in with an executive order that instructs hospitals to allow visitation rights to same-sex couples.
"But this is only a partial solution to a deeper problem.
"Stigma and prejudice lead many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to face significant barriers when accessing health care. The LGBT communities suffer from greater rates of obesity, adult and adolescent mental health disorders, chronic diseases, intimate partner violence and sexually transmitted diseases.
"The vast majority of lesbians feel that if their health care provider knew their sexual orientation, this knowledge could affect their care; many delay recommended health care as a result. Transgender individuals are uncomfortable disclosing their gender for fear of ridicule or hostility."These fears are not unfounded: More than half of LGBT people have experienced discrimination and resultant substandard care at the hands of their providers, and nearly one in five providers surveyed in California say they are sometimes or often uncomfortable providing care to gay patients. These health disparities are not studied and reported in the same manner that are health disparities due to race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status; as a result they are not generally known.
"Stanford was the first university in the United States to grant domestic-partner benefits to its employees, a faculty-led important step for the institution. But domestic partnership has become an ambiguous term, one that can be subject to question and interpretation when a same-sex couple goes about their daily life...
"We can do better.
"Married people live longer: As young adults, married men may have mortality rates 2½ times lower than single men.
"Married people lead healthier lives: They have lower levels of depression, substance abuse and suicide. They earn more money and have greater rates of promotion and productivity at work. They do not have to explain their relationship to others. They do not suffer discrimination in employer benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans. Their children are healthier and better adjusted.
"Thus, it is no surprise that the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics support marriage equality. What's more, two sections of the American Medical Association voted last month to adopt a resolution in support of marriage equality and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law enacted in 1996 that allows states to refuse to recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states where it is legal.
"The Stanford School of Medicine made a commitment Nov. 17 to help end marriage discrimination and restore rights to our faculty, our staff, our students and our neighbors when the Faculty Senate approved the following resolution: 'The Faculty Senate at Stanford School of Medicine supports granting the rights of civil marriage to same-sex couples as part of our commitment to reduce the documented health-care disparities affecting those couples, their families and their children.'"
"We encourage all health professions schools to endorse similar statements."
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