Polyamory: Laws and legal practices impacting our health

As always legal practices vary widely around the world, and I am not a legal expert. This post is for informational purposes only. Please contact a legal professional for advice and expert information.

Insurance Law

People living in countries with single payer and universal health care systems probably don’t have to worry about losing access to health care based on their relationships. Other systems have the potential to cause problems for poly folk. In employer-sponsored health care systems you only have insurance if you are employed with benefits or are legally married to someone who is employed with benefits. These systems have the potential to leave poly folk in group relationships and triads out in the cold. The US had an employer sponsored health care system before the passage of the ACA. The current mix of public and private health care under the ACA still privileges legally married couples. Married couples pay lower premiums on health insurance plans from the public market than unmarried couples–or the unmarried member of a triad.

Privacy Laws

I’m having a bitch of a time finding information on medical privacy laws regarding what medical professionals around the world can and can’t share with family members. Most of the easily available information focuses on how privacy laws are being re-designed to protect electronically stored information. In the US, doctors used to be able to share info with legal spouses freely. Today under HIPPA doctors can’t share information with anyone (including other doctors) without a signed form telling them exactly who they can talk to, and how much much they are allowed to share.

Any countries which have laws similar to the older US system will give an advantage to folks who are legally married–an option not available to many poly folk. France and other countries with a mix of private and public health care may or may not offer similar advantages to married couples (and similar disadvantages to many poly folk).

Hospital Rules and Regulations

Hospitals and health clinics often have rules about who is allowed to visit, be present during a procedure and more. When my former metamour Lauren had an emergency c-section, only one person could be in the room with her during surgery. When I went for an ultrasound recently, the clinic allowed one person in the room with me. In other situations only family members are admitted.

These rules will vary between hospitals and clinics. I won’t even attempt to review world wide approaches because within jurisdictions. the way things are handled varies so widely there is no way I could give an idea of rules in the US versus, say, Brazil.

However, these rules have obvious issues for polycules where many people want to be present and give their support but only some are allowed.

Medical Power of Attorney

Power of attorney is the legal right to act on behalf of someone else. This means you can spend their money, manage their property, and make decisions regarding their medial care. Power of attorney goes by different names in different countries (in Italy it’s called procura). I’ve been told that power of attorney exists in most countries of the world. My (admittedly brief) internet search has confirmed power of attorney exists in Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Ireland, Parts of the UK, and the US.

Medical power of attorney is the US term for a restricted type of power of attorney. Medical power of attorney allows a person access to your medical information and the ability to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. A similar form of power of attorney exists in England and Wales, and (I have been told) most countries that allow for power of attorney.

Medical power of attorney is a way around laws and regulations restricting access to your medical records and defining who gets a say in your medical care. In the US, if you are unable to make decisions for yourself, unless you have medical power of attorney your next of kin will make decisions for you. Your next of kin is your legal spouse, or if you don’t have one your children, or if you don’t have any your parents.

Medical power of attorney can grant members of a polycule who are not legally married access to their loved ones in the hospital and a say in their loved one’s care. More than one poly partner has been blocked from their loved one’s bedside by parents (next-of-kin) who don’t approve of polyamory.

 

Next Sunday will be the last post in the Polyamory Legal Challenges blog series. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, contact me and let me know!

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