Waymon Hudson

Florida Hospital Changes LGBT Policies After Denying Lesbian the Right to Visit Her Dying Partner

Filed By Waymon Hudson | April 13, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Florida, hospital visitation rights, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Janice Langbehn, Lambda Legal, Lisa Pond, Miami

Readers may remember the stomach-turning hospital behavior from Miami, Florida based hospital Jackson Memorial Hospital. Janice Langbehn was denied access to her dying partner, Lisa Marie Pond. Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, together 18 years, were about to depart from Miami on an R Family cruise with their three children when Lisa suddenly collapsed.

shapeimage_1.pngThe hospital refused to accept information from Janice regarding Lisa's medical history, informing her that she was in an "antigay city and state" and that she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. Even after the power of attorney Janice held was faxed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, no hospital employee would allow Janice or the couple's children to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival.

Langbehn, represented by Lambda Legal, filed a federal law suit claiming negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A U.S. District Court in Florida rejected the lawsuit, but Lambda Legal has announced that the hospital had changed it's policies regarding LGBT patients after months of meetings with a coalition of LGBT and healthcare groups in Florida.

Much more after the jump...

Jackson Memorial has added a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a patient's bill of rights that states the hospital's commitment to "providing quality care for LGBT patients", and a visitation policy that updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient.

That's a huge move forward from where the hospital was and sets a good example of the direction all healthcare providers should be moving.

Still lacking, however? The hospital does not have a complete grievance procedure to ensure compliance with the policy in cases of emergency and has not apologized to the Langbehn-Pond Family.

From Lambda Legal:

Today, Lambda Legal, its coalition partners, and officials from Jackson Health System (JHS) released a statement announcing the hospital's improved policies that are more responsive to the needs of the LGBT community but do not provide as much protection as may be needed in critical situations. Lambda Legal urges Jackson Memorial Hospital to enact a full grievance procedure and also to issue an apology to the Langbehn-Pond family.

"Lambda Legal applauds Jackson Memorial's work with the coalition to review and expand policies and training materials to help address the needs of same-sex couples and their families, but we urge the hospital to finish the job," said Beth Littrell, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, who was lead counsel on Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial. "The hospital should issue an official apology to the Langbehn-Pond family and JHS should have a grievance procedure in the case of visitation denial that can be acted on quickly in an emergency situation."

"Jackson Memorial Hospital should have been able to provide immediate resources to Janice Langbehn when she wasn't allowed to be with her partner Lisa hour after hour as she lay dying in the hospital. We don't want the Langbehn-Pond nightmare to happen to another family," Littrell added.

Last September, the Court rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn, ruling that no law required the hospital to allow her and their three children to see her partner, Lisa Pond. Langbehn and the children were kept apart from Pond by hospital staff for eight hours as Pond slipped into a coma and died. Since then, Lambda Legal has been working with other LGBT organizations and hospital officials to address the policies that leave many same-sex couples and their families vulnerable during critical times.

After a year of reviewing JHS policies, the LGBT coalition recommended several policy changes that the hospital adopted. The hospital developed and implemented a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a patient's bill of rights that demonstrates the hospital's commitment to providing quality care for LGBT patients, and a visitation policy that updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient. JHS does not have a complete grievance procedure to ensure compliance with the policy in cases of emergency.

As Lambda Legal says, this is a start. The hospital still needs an emergency grievance procedure and to address the horrific way they treated the Langbehn-Pond family, for whom these policy changes come far too late.

Janice Langbehn said it best:

No one should have been able to deny our children and [me] the ability to say goodbye to Lisa and let her know -- if only be holding her hand -- that she was so loved. That should not be a privilege in our country but a basic human right of every family regardless of how they define themselves.

...

It gives me and my family some comfort to know that by sharing our story we have helped to change Jackson's policies for the better.


Note: The LGBT organizations working with Jackson Health System on this effort included the Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth, CenterLink, Equality Florida, Florida Together, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Lambda Legal, Miami Workers' Center, Out with Cancer, Pride Center at Equality Park, Fight OUT Loud, SAVE Dade, and the Transgender Equality Rights Initiative.


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If the hospital had refused to hear pertinent medical history provided by the partner, and that history would have changed diagnosis and/or treatment, then it is quite possible that the hospital could be sued on the basis of medical negligence.

Wait a minute...

...the Court rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn, ruling that no law required the hospital to allow her and their three children to see her partner, Lisa Pond.

But there's a law that allows the hospital to force the partner's apart and keep the children from their dying parent? And what about the medical wishes that the partner should have had control over but didn't? Did their previously contracted power-of-attorney count for anything?

No law required the hospital to allow her into the room?

I'm sorry, was there anyone else the hospital would have preferred to be in there? A new orderly, perhaps? Maybe the nice lady that runs the flower shop in the lobby?

I'm glad they're finally "reconsidering" this egregious policy, but to hide behind what the law "requires" is about as lame as the denial in the first place.

This story is so horribly frightening and sad.
It's difficult to even comment... but condolences to Lisa Pond's children and Janice Langbehn.
Such real cruelty in this world to be denied those hours of a dying mother and partner.

Its too late for this family, but at least the right thing is finally being done.

Interestingly, they attempted to delete the Langbehn/Pond incident from Wikipedia the day after they announced this policy change: http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/15857/jackson-memorial-hospital-deletes-langbehn-tragedy-from-wikipedia