Obama apologizes to lesbian widow but hospital will not

President Barack Obama apologized by phone to a woman prevented from seeing her dying partner at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Just a few years ago, Janice Langbehn [left] pleaded with doctors to get hospital visitation – as her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma. Eight hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into the Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond [right].

The Miami Herald‘s Steve Rothaus reports:

From a runway at Miami International Airport, President Barack Obama apologized by phone Thursday night to a lesbian prevented from seeing her dying partner at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Janice Langbehn, who unsuccessfully sued the hospital after the 2007 sudden death of partner Lisa Pond, says she’s still waiting for an apology from Jackson — which just last week changed its definition of “family” to include gay and lesbian couples.

6/1/2009
Miami hospital to meet with GLBT health advocates in response to issue involving dying lesbian mom

A meeting recently took place between executives at Jackson Memorial Hospital and GLBT health advocates:

According to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s James Beaudreau, ‘In addition to making sure that visitation policies are inclusive of same-sex partners and their children, and that the definition of family in visitation policies does not restrict visitors to biological family members, we hope to persuade the hospital to: Institute mandatory LGBT sensitivity and cultural competency training for its staff; Explicitly describe sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes within the hospital’s Patient Bill of Rights; Begin a series of dialogues with Miami’s LGBT community so that the hospital can better understand the unique healthcare needs of LGBT individuals.

2/7/2009
Lesbian mom fights over hospital visitation rights in Miami court

As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.

Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.

Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.

Jackson attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the hospital has no obligation to allow patients’ visitors.

At Friday’s hearing, Langbehn’s lawyers argued the case should be tried because Langbehn had the proper documentation to make medical decisions on behalf of her partner, and was not consulted about Pond’s condition for hours despite seeking answers every 20 minutes.

”This is not just about same-sex couples,” said attorney Donald Hayden, who is also representing the Langbehn family. “This is about protecting the legal access that a parent has to see a child, or an essential loved ones right to be aware of what is going on with their loved one.”

Following a hearing lasting more than an hour Friday, U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan said he would try to decide soon whether the case could proceed to trial. He gave no specific date.

Pond’s medical problems began in February 2007 when she, Langbehn and their three adopted children were aboard a cruise ship docked in Miami. The Washington state couple and their children were on vacation.

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