Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Court Asked to Reject Bid to Dismiss Lesbian’s Case Against Fla. Hospital

MIAMI, Florida (Observer Update) - Attorneys for a woman denied access to her dying partner are asking a federal judge to reject a motion by Jackson Memorial Hospital to have a lawsuit against the facility dismissed and to allow the case to proceed to trial, reported. The suit was filed by Lambda Legal, which is representing Janice Langbehn.

Langbehn and Lisa Pond had planned to take their three children on a family cruise. The Olympia, Washington couple had been together 18 years and with their children were looking forward to the holiday. But just as they were about to depart on the cruise last year from Miami, Pond, a healthy 39-year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with Langbehn and the children following close behind.

Once Langbehn and the children arrived at the hospital, the hospital refused to accept information from her about Ponds’s medical history. Langbehn says she was informed that she was in an anti-Gay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.

Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Langbehn’s request, and despite the doctor’s acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither she nor her 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 lawsuit alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Public Health Trust of Miami Dade County, which runs Jackson Memorial Hospital, denies wrongdoing. The hospital claims that it has no obligation to allow their patients’ visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to their patients’ families, healthcare surrogates, and visitors. The Public Trust has asked the court to dismiss the case. A hearing was held in federal court in Miami. “We are here today to ensure that families get the respect they deserve at Jackson Memorial Hospital and to prevent Janice’s tragedy from happening to anyone else,” said Lambda attorney Beth Littrell. “This family deserves to have its day in court.”

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