A US court has rejected a lawsuit filed against a hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn who was kept apart from her dying partner by hospital staff for eight hours.
“The court’s decision paints a tragically stark picture of how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families really are during times of crisis,” said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal which filed the suit on behalf of Langbehn and her family.
“We hope that because of Janice’s courage to seek justice for her family in this case that more people better understand the costs of antigay discrimination. This should never happen to anyone.”
While preparing for a family cruise in 2007, Lisa Pond, an apparently healthy 39 year-old, suddenly collapsed and was rushed to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital with her partner Langbehn and three children following close behind.
There, the hospital refused to accept information from Langbehn about her partner’s medical history. She was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as Pond’s partner or family.
A doctor finally spoke with Langbehn telling her that there was no chance of recovery. Other than one five minute visit that was arranged by a Catholic priest at Langbehn’s request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor’s acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Langbehn — who provided the hospital with a medical Power of Attorney document — nor their children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival.
Soon after Pond’s death, Langbehn 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.
The ruling comes after a two year battle to find justice for Langbehn and her family.
The court dismissed the case because it said that the hospital has neither an obligation to allow their patients’ visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to provide their patients’ families, healthcare surrogates, or visitors with access to patients in their trauma unit.
The court has given the Langbehn-Pond family until October 16 to review the ruling and consider all legal options.