Lesbians Sue When Partners Die Alone

Reed, who, like Langbehn, had all the legal directives to serve as her partner's health proxy, has filed a lawsuit against the employment agency that hired the nurse at Seattle's University of Washington Medical Center.

Her partner of 17 years, Jo Ann Ritchie, had been frequently hospitalized for a blood ailment and Reed had been allowed to stay at her side -- even in the intensive care unit, where she once spent the night.

"We were not strangers to the hospital," said Reed.

"The day before Jo died, she told me, 'I'm scared, don't leave me,'" said Reed, now 70 and a psychotherapist. "I promised I would stay with her, but every time I tried to see Jo [the nurse] would scream at me to get out of the room, 'You don't belong here.' She was very hostile from the beginning."

The hospital has liberal "24/7" visitation policies, according to Reed's lawyer, Judith A. Lonnquist, who filed a "torte of outrage" in King County Superior Court. "But this woman was from Tennessee and knew nothing about the cultural norms of the Northwest."

Today, Reed told ABCNews.com that she felt she had let her partner down at the end of life.

"Ours was the kind of relationship had been a dream of a lifetime for both of us," said Reed. "We had spent the last 17 years, buying a home, raising a child, being successful in our careers, having loyal friends and sharing time with our families."

"We absolutely adored each other and everybody knew it," she said.

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