Hospital Visitation and Advance Medical Directives

Equality Virginia believes that every person has the right to decide who may visit them in the hospital and to choose the person they want to make medical decisions if they become unable to do so. During times of illness and injury, these basic rights are critical to preserve an individual’s autonomy, dignity and peace of mind.

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Declare your medical directives so a loved one will be able to make decisions if you are unable.  Register Here


Hospital Visitation


Helped pass legislation guaranteeing every person the right to decide who they want to visit them in the hospital three years before President Obama’s order.  See More EV Successes


As of July 1, 2007 the Code of Virginia mandates that the Board of Health require that every licensed hospital in Virginia have a visitation policy in place that guarantees adult hospital patients the right to decide who can visit them.

Prior to the passage of this law, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community had no way of ensuring that their wishes regarding visitors would be followed by hospitals in Virginia, particularly in the face of objections from family members.

Now, hospitals cannot have a policy limiting adult patients’ visitors to “family members” or any other hospital defined class of individuals.

Advanced Medical Directives 


In 2008,  EV helped pass legislation setting up a state-wide registry for Advanced Health Care Directives making it easier for doctors to know who is authorized to make medical decisions for loved ones in a time of need. See more EV successes.


A written advance directive can be signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses or an oral advance directive may be made in the presence of the attending physician and two witnesses.

Without an advance directive designating a person as the decision maker for the patient, the statute places the responsibility in the hands of listed relatives. Partners of LGBT people have no standing to make decisions for their loved ones in the absence of a properly executed advance medical directive.

Please note that currently this document does not need to be notarized, however, when done through the online registry this document may need to be notarized.

Access the Advance Health Care Directives Registry ►

The Advance Health Care Directives Registry is an electronic repository of directives filed by individuals who want health care providers in the state to have easy on-line access to their documents.

LGBT couples in Virginia cannot get married and therefore do not have state laws to ensure that their spouse or partner would be the first person to whom medical authorities turn when they are incapacitated.  It is critically important, indeed, essential, that each of us take several steps to ensure that our life partners and spouses, or other person of our choosing, have the legal right and ability to make financial, family, health care and funeral decisions for us when we cannot do so.

Access the Advance Health Care Registry here



  • Ask for an appointment with the hospital administrator or other person who oversees patient care at the hospital to discuss the hospital visitation policy.
  • Show the hospital representative a copy of the new law and ask what plans the hospital has to come into compliance.  Ask what changes they will be making in hospital protocol and how they will be communicating these changes to hospital staff.
  • Ask for a copy of the hospital’s current visitation policy and its protocol on the rights and responsibilities of patients. (You may be able to access both online at the hospital’s website before your visit).  See if either includes language assuring patients the right to decide who can visit them in the hospital.
  • Ask to see the hospital’s privacy policy and any forms that they use to request information from patients on admission to the hospital or that they ask patients to sign regarding disclosure of information.  Ask, too, for any forms specific to access to patient information regarding patients in ICU and other critical care areas where patients may not be conscious.
  • If the hospital doesn’t have a plan to comply, you should ask, at a minimum, that the hospital formally amend the hospital visitation policy to make clear that patients have a right to choose who to allow to visit. In addition, you may want to suggest that the hospital amend the protocol on patients’ rights and responsibilities to state explicitly that the patient has the right to determine who can visit.  This protocol (required by law under subsection B.8. of 32.1-127) is made available to every patient admitted and often is posted conspicuously around the hospital.If you have any questions concerning these tools, please feel free to contact EV at [email protected]

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