Dana Rudolph

Injustice for Florida Family

Filed By Dana Rudolph | September 30, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: Florida, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Janice Langbehn, lisa pond

I'm spitting nails over this one:

A U.S. District Court in Florida rejected a lawsuit by a lesbian mom who had been kept apart from her partner who lay dying in a Florida hospital. The couple's three children were kept from her as well.

In February 2007, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond boarded an R Family cruise, looking forward to vacation with their children. Just before the boat left, however, Pond collapsed unexpectedly. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Janice and the children arrived close behind.

Lambda Legal explains:

Almost immediately they encountered prejudice and apathy. The hospital refused to accept information from Janice about Lisa's medical history. Janice was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.

Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Janice's request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor's acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Janice nor her children were allowed to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival. Soon after Lisa's death, Janice tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.

Tragic, you may say, but my partner and I have legal documents giving each other medical power of attorney. So did Langbehn and Pond.

The New York Times in May published a long account of their story. It's worth a re-read.

Lambda Legal, who was pursuing the case on behalf of Langbehn, the Estate of Lisa Pond and their three children, has until October 16 to review the ruling with the family and consider all legal options.

Today's court decision is shameful. I hope it is appealed. What was it President Obama said just yesterday?

On this Family Day, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring that every American family has the chance to build a better, healthier future for themselves and their children.

Yeah. Let's do something about that.


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Ah, the refreshing ignorance of the Bible belt. Honestly, what is it about Christianity that makes people act like assholes? And yet, they think they can convert us and "save" us from being who we truly are.

I wonder why they faced such predjudice in an area with a notable gay population? I've been lucky to have always been treated in a respectful manner in any hospital I've been in in S.Florida, including when my ex partner had our child, and when my daughter ( not mine biologically ) was in to get her tonsils out. I've always been treated as the parent or spouse, and granted all rights that would come from such positions. All I can say is shame on Jackson Memorial, and thank you to the staff of Bethesda Memorial, and Boca Medical Center for their fair treatment.

Quarantine Miami
No gay money gets spent on healthcare there.
Not for doctors, meds, counselling, ...nothing.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 1, 2009 1:59 AM

Dana, as tragic as this situation is I hope you know that it will do a lot of good as a warning to others.

When we lived in Florida it took a while for the homophobia of the whole state to catch up with me. I had to call the ER service once for my partner while we were there and it was to a hospital we knew. We had no problem as he never lost consciousness. I am somewhat imposing when it comes to access to him in all aspects of his medical care including invoking the name of my law firm at the front end and I generally find the Gay in the hospital. I traveled everywhere with notarized copies of our mutual powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, insurance information, etc.

An out of state Gay couple just flying in to transfer to a cruise...no protections or guarantees at all in Florida. You are at the whim of the first bigot. Other than in South Beach and greater Ft. Lauderdale you are in "Cracker Heaven!"

All those folks who questioned my moving him and myself to Thailand take note. I could not wait for the laws to become right. Thank you for this Dana and I hope to hear an update after the 16th.

It seems to me that the court focused on a strict reading of existing policies that say that the hospital can prohibit anyone from entering their trauma unit. This is where Florida shows its distinctly insidious and surly side. The court knows perfectly well that most of the time, when hetero couples are involved, there is no question of access. The spouse is ushered in without hesitation. The court is invoking the existing hospital rules while ignoring the selective application. The selective application is the real issue.

Like Texas, Florida has developed its own singularly ridiculous and frighteningly irrational personality.

What was the rationale behind dismissing the case?

Good question. It's unclear. Nothing on the Lambda site indicates why. I don't think the court docs have been published yet.

On a related note, the hospital now has a note on its Web page stating:

"At Jackson Health System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve.

"Jackson Memorial Hospital does not restrict visitation on account of a person’s sexual orientation. In fact, the hospital grants visitation to all individuals equally, regardless of their relationship to the patient – as long as doing so does not interfere with the care being given to the patient or other patients in the area. A friend or colleague is viewed no differently than a partner, spouse, or parent for purposes of visitation.

"Jackson will continue to work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of medical care."

The original filing, the Motion to Dismiss and everything in between in on our blog at www.theLPkids.com I am not a lawyer but basically there is nothing in florida law that would force the hand of hospital personnel to allow a committed couple in to visit. We had our Power of Attorney and everything send to the hospital and when life saving measures ceased after 2hrs or so - the kids and I waited another 6 hours until Lisa sister arrived who was told Lisa was moved to ICU nearly an hour before - yet we kept waiting in the wrong place. Just google my name to see the coverage over the months since lisa died - and now it hurts all over again now that it would appear we have little to no recourse for Jackson Memorial to meet a minimum standard of care.

Thanks for the update, Dana. While Florida has plenty of homophobia to go around, not every hospital in the state is as negligent and disrepectful as Jackson. When I had cancer surgery earlier this year at Shands in Gainesville (the UF Medical teaching hospital), my partner had complete access and was treated with consideration by doctors and nurses.