Obama Orders Hospitals to Allow Gay Visitation, Medical Rights

Last September, a federal district 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 was playing basketball with her three children when she collapsed from an aneurysm on the first day of a 2007 anniversary cruise ship vacation.

But after the 39-year-old was rushed by ambulance to a Florida medical center, she fought for her life alone.

Langbehn, her partner of 18 years, told ABCNews.com that she and her children were never given a chance to say goodbye.

She said pleas to be at her partner's deathbed were not granted because the Lacey, Wash., couple were lesbians.

Lesbian Lost Lawsuit Against Hospital

Langbehn sued Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital and three medical professionals, alleging they "ignored" her needs and that of their legally adopted children and prevented her from making healthcare decisions.

"No one should die alone," Langbehn said.

Langbehn said a social worker at the hospital informed her, "I need you to know this is an anti-gay city and an anti-gay state, and you are not going to get to see her or know her condition."

"I felt like I was being put on notice," said Langbehn, now 41 and a social worker herself. She immediately called a friend to fax health care proxies and a durable power of attorney but the hospital disregarded the documents.

The hospital, through its lawyers, denied that their social worker made any such comment and said that saving Pond's life was the doctors' top priority at the busy trauma center that serves the entire county. They said the couple was treated no differently than any other family in such circumstances.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida, alleged that the hospital staff was "motivated by anti-gay animus."

"From the moment Langbehn and the children arrived at Jackson Memorial Hospital, they encountered prejudice and apathy," the suit claimed.

Langbehn was represented by the gay activist group Lambda Legal, which said the case could determine the way hospitals treat not only gay and lesbian patients, but unmarried heterosexuals and single people who rely on friends.

LGBT groups have since charged that gay couples receive inconsistent access to hospital visitation and decision-making rights.

Pond had been the stay-at-home mother for their four adopted children, one of whom was not with them on vacation because he is living in a facility for disabled adults.

The family had just eaten lunch while the ship was still in port when Pond collapsed on the top deck while taking photos of the children, ages 9, 11 and 13.

Pond was rushed by ambulance to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial and the rest of the family followed in a taxi, arriving at the hospital at 3:30 p.m.

"But as soon as I pulled up [to the hospital] and got out with three young kids and seven pieces of luggage, I was stopped at the door: 'You need to take a seat,'" said Langbehn. "'Go through another door and park your luggage in a small waiting room.'"

There, the family sat during Pond's dying hours, except for two brief encounters with the doctors -- one to ask about a brain monitor and the other to report there was no hope left for Pond.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...