Know your rights as a same-sex partner is the message being promoted by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), in conjunction with ACON.

A wallet-sized information booklet to be released later this month will clearly outline the rights of same-sex partners in situations where their other half has been admitted into hospital or is incapable of making decisions.

“It is important that people from the GLBT community know and understand their absolutely ordinary rights, which are the same as anyone else’s,” NSW Public Guardian Imelda Dodds said.

Same-sex couples have the legislated right to act as the person responsible for their partners in situations where they have been incapacitated.

They have the right to be consulted by doctors as to the treatment being offered their partner, and the right to provide medical and dental consent if the patient cannot.

“People in the community have experienced problems of being in hospital, being in the emergency department with their partner and not being listened to, and that has to be one of the most devastating experiences that any of us could possibly go through,” Dodds said.

“So it’s a matter of people knowing their rights to be able to say to the treating individuals, ‘This is my partner. I am the person responsible under this legislation. You must take account of my views.’”

Members of the GLBT community are also being encouraged to forward-plan for such events, by appointing an enduring guardian before the onset of illness so they might make further decisions on accommodation, healthcare services and medical consent.

“It’s been my experience over the years that the issue of planning ahead is one of the hardest to get across to people because you don’t want to face the possibility that you’re not going to be able to make your own decisions,” Dodds said.

“It doesn’t come into people’s heads until they’re confronted with it, and it’s either because of someone really close to them, like their partner, or someone close to them in their friendship group, so we really want to encourage people to think about this before they’re actually in that pressure cooker situation of being at the hospital, trying to care for their partner.”

For more information on the booklet and your rights visit www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/opg.

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