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Federal Court Dismisses Lesbian Mother's Visitation Case Against Miami Hospital Where Her Partner Died Alone

You may remember the story of Janice Langbehn, the Seattle woman whose partner Lisa Pond suffered an aneurysm on an R-Family cruise out of Miami in February 2007. Even after a power of attorney naming Langbehn was sent to Jackson Memorial Hospital, the hospital refused to allow Langbehn access to Pond, who died about 18 hours after being admitted. Langbehn was finally allowed to see Pond as a priest delivered last rites.


Today, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit (filed in June 2008) on behalf of Langbehn, the Estate of Lisa Pond and their three adopted children.

Via press release: "Today’s ruling comes after the Public Health Trust of the Miami Dade County, the governing body of Jackson Memorial Hospital, filed a motion to dismiss the case. The court ruled 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."

Said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta: “The court’s decision paints a tragically stark picture of how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families really are during times of crisis. 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.”

UPDATE: More from Jan Langbehn on her blog.

Very, very disappointing.

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  1. Although it is probably true that most hospitals are more likely to refuse admittance to a same sex partner, it appears that the court is saying hospitals have the right to arbitrarily refuse any visitor the hospital chooses. Such a ruling should be scary for everyone who may end up in a hospital.

    Posted by: rayrayj | Sep 29, 2009 6:54:01 PM

  2. All I can say is God help anyone, and I mean ANYONE who stands between me and my partner. I will be back and I will take as many out with us as I find in my path.

    Posted by: Marc | Sep 29, 2009 7:17:36 PM

  3. It sounds like the hospital reserves the right to reject even an "opposite marriage" spouse. Interesting.

    Posted by: Rich | Sep 29, 2009 7:32:07 PM

  4. Sounds like Dick Cheney fucked up: he could've had Blackwater open a "hospital" at Guantanimo consisting only of a trauma unit and it would never have even been a campaign issue.

    Posted by: KJ | Sep 29, 2009 7:37:11 PM

  5. This decision is not very disappointing. It is disgusting and tragic. If there is any justice in the world, everyone who sits on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida who voted against Langbehn will die a painful solitary death, separated from those they love.

    Posted by: peterparker | Sep 29, 2009 7:47:49 PM

  6. But hey! The President mentioned gay families yesterday so everything is just hunky-dory!

    Posted by: gerry | Sep 29, 2009 8:35:46 PM

  7. A little more research please here!!!

    I think the key phrase here is "in their trauma unit." Does this hospital allow opposite-sex spouses into the trauma area? I would doubt that because a trauma unit is the last place you would want distraught family members (same-sex or opposite-sex) standing about and getting in the way as they are trying to save someone's life.

    I'm not saying the hospital is right or wrong, but so far I haven't seen anyone look at this case from that issue.

    Posted by: Adam | Sep 29, 2009 8:38:33 PM

  8. The most disturbing aspect of this ruling is that it applies not only to same sex couples, but to anyone. Echoes of the ramifications of Prop 8 - whether you support gay rights or not, we now know that a majority can take away the rights of a minority.

    Once again, we see that a decision that can be read, on the surface, as anti-LGBT, actually has the possibility of affecting everyone.

    Posted by: allnighter | Sep 29, 2009 8:59:17 PM

  9. To wish harm upon the Court for delivering a ruling on a case by applying EXISTING law is foolish. Here's the harsh reality:

    By law, a hospital may limit visitors if a patient is being treated for a trauma, emergency or serious infection.

    Also, there are Federal health privacy laws that have to be followed - and current law indicates that hospitals do not have to allow visitors.

    The court has to rule accordingly, no matter, sadly, what we prefer emotionally.

    Posted by: Will | Sep 29, 2009 9:33:20 PM

  10. A link to the actual press release, perhaps?

    Posted by: chuck b. | Sep 29, 2009 10:07:03 PM

  11. you can read it all at our blog.. we were barred for 8 hours. 6 hours AFTER life saving measures ceased. I'm beyond devastated it's like my partner of 18 years, Lisa, died all over again for the children and I

    Posted by: Jan | Sep 29, 2009 10:52:15 PM

  12. Jan, I'm so very sorry for your loss and the painful memories dredged up by this uncaring court decision. Deciding law should never be so inextricably unlinked to human feeling. When law becomes so sterile that it overlooks the flesh and bone it seeks to guide, then we as a society have regressed rather than advanced.

    I'm quite certain that if Jan were a John, this case never would have appeared before the court and this thread of comments would not exist.

    Posted by: Sean | Sep 29, 2009 11:05:52 PM

  13. I certainly sympathize with the varying arguments presented over this particular case. However, I am conflicted over recent events that I encountered at the local hospital here in Atlanta. My partner was admitted into the emergency room 4 weeks ago for kideny failure. At that time, everyone was very helpful and polite and I was able to be with him through most of that time until he was sent to dyalisis. Over the course of the following week, the nurses, doctors and staff addressed as immediatle family and caregiver for my partner, which rightfully I am. Two weeks later, I was scheduled for an operation at another hospital. I had already had a tenuous relationship with the surgeon and tolerated it only because it was my primary physician who I would be following up with. When it came time to have my staples removed, I set an appointment and waited for over four hours in a patient room. At that point, I had had enough and came out and basically ripped him a new one. Angry and frustrated (based on my previous experience with him) I left and called my primary doctor. He was out of town and the nurse suggested I go to the emergency room over the weekend and have my staples removed. The concern was that the skin would heal over the staples making them more painful and difficult to remove later. So, two days later I went to Piedmont hospital (the same one my partner had been admitted to) to have them removed. I explained the situation and that I had insurance and there didn't appear to be any problem. Two hours later, the nurse comes in and begins to ask me about the surgery and why the surgeon did not remove them. Once again, I expalained and then he said that he would not remove another physicians staples and that I would have to go back to him. He left, and then the head nurse came in and I explained the situation again. He asked for the phone number to the surgeons office and I gave it to him. 30 minutes later, the original nurse comes back and says they spoke to the surgeon and that I should go back on Monday to have my staples removed...period. I questioned whether they had really spoken to him and suggested that just didn't want to remove them because I was gay. Not responding, he just left. On Monday, I called my primary physicians office and they scheduled for me to go in that day to have the staples removed, a procedure that took all of 2 mintues. They had also confirmed with the surgeon that no one had called and spoken with him the previous day. So, at this point, my uncle (who served on a hospital board in Texas for 1 years) wants me to write a letter to the CEO of the hospital and call this guy out. He stated that since no damage had been done to me, I had no case, but because I live in a very heavily populated gay area of Atlanta and that the hospital clearly has a tolerance clause, that writing the letter at the very least will get this guy disciplined or even better terminated depending on his previous record. My partner doesn't want to create any waves because he may very well sue his doctor for placing him on medications that contradicted his high blood pressure medications and caused his kidney failure. Frankly, I'm on his side and neither of us wants to appear like some sue happy couple going after every doctor or hospital for stupididty. I only say this because the very issue drawn up in this article probably has more to it then what is being reported. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly apprecited.

    Posted by: Keith | Sep 29, 2009 11:21:40 PM

  14. Keith, may I suggest some paragraph breaks?

    Posted by: Mark | Sep 30, 2009 12:12:48 AM

  15. Let me tell you because of my Multiple Sclerosis and with lisa gone.. I have have various friends or families bring me and stay with me at the hospitals in WA state and NOT once did the questions us.. not ask for our Power of Attorney which I updated upon lisa death. To know this ONE major trauma and "well regarded" hospital can get away with and with the Judge admitting that it likely did happen but FL has no laws banning it - says it all

    Posted by: Jan | Sep 30, 2009 12:34:49 AM

  16. KEITH go to our blog all legal documents are there or Lambda Legal and google my name - I have spoken nationally on our struggle for equality.. maybe that will help

    Posted by: Jan | Sep 30, 2009 12:37:29 AM

  17. Thank you Jan, I will follow up with your site tomorrow.

    Mark, if you don't have anyting to contribute to the converstation may I suggest that you stop acting like the troll you are and shut the fuck up. It's dire bitter queers like you that give our community a bad reputation. Enjoy your evening you fuck hole.

    Posted by: Keith | Sep 30, 2009 1:28:08 AM

  18. Sue them both, I say. Doctors and hospitals earn ridiculously large sums of money in the U.S. because they often get sued. When a doctor screws up, it's only FAIR to sue the pants off him.

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Sep 30, 2009 2:06:39 AM

  19. Keith, you sound like the perpetual victim,adrift on a sea of whiny complaints..Oh the drama..Oh the victim hood..Oh the humanity..Nothing is ever your fault..Nothing is ever your boyfriends fault..Everyone is against you because you are Gay..Boo and Hoo..

    Posted by: Ken | Sep 30, 2009 9:57:43 AM

  20. Keith it sounds like you got bad customer service and are accusing the hospital for discrimination because you are gay. You should carefully and objectively look at the situation again and make sure that it was because of your homosexuality that this happened to you, from your story it sounds like you are falsely accusing them of this discrimination.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Sep 30, 2009 10:32:23 AM

  21. Keith, i didn't see how rude you were to mark, You DO need to use paragraph breaks because that is proper grammar. Why would you be THAT rude to someone who points out the truth? Will you be that rude to me for pointing out a similar truth that your story lacks credibility? Are you a rude person? You seem like it.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Sep 30, 2009 10:36:16 AM

  22. As far as Jens case is considered, I want to read more about it and see if they do allow opposite sex spouses in the "Trauma center", especially since they do not say so in the blurb above, they mention every other type of related parties.

    Also sorry for 3 back to back posts.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Sep 30, 2009 10:39:43 AM

  23. I work in a level 1 trauma center. The staff here ALWAYS allows for the primary caregiver or spouse to be with the patient, as long as the patient has been relatively stabilized. Particularly in situations where life-saving measures have been halted, there is NO excuse for not allowing family to say goodbye. None.

    This is a good example of how common sense humankindness can and should overrule any arbitrary organizational policy. That's what the courts should be for.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Sep 30, 2009 11:01:50 AM

  24. >>Keith, you sound like the perpetual victim,adrift on a sea of whiny complaints>from your story it sounds like you are falsely accusing them of this discrimination.>Why would you be THAT rude to someone who points out the truth?<<

    Because his response had nothing to do with my comment nor the post in which it was made. As I said, if you can't contribute to the conversation...

    In short, I was really disappointed by the actions of this hospital and wanted to relay my own recent experience with my partner when he was sent to the emergency room. They were professional and treated me with dignity and respect during the entire time and the subsequent week he spent in ICU. As for my partner, his physician knew fully well that he was on high blood pressure medications and yet prescribe additonal medications that cause serious complications when introduced together. In short, one more day and he would be dead. Frankly, I think we'll both be happy if his kidneys repair themselves. Right now, it's not looking good. Nevertheless, neither of us have jumped to any conclusions nor have we sought out legal representation. So Fenrox, stop trying to read into something that isn't there.

    For now, my heart goes out to Janice. Had that been me, I probably would have gone balistic until they arrested me. That's how much my partner means to me. Shame you can't understand that.

    Posted by: Keith | Sep 30, 2009 12:29:31 PM

  25. Ken, I thought the comment about paragraph breaks was valid. You wrote a VERY long story (as far as blog comments are concerned) and all that white text against a black background was very hard to read. I know I skipped over it because it hurt my eyes. The comment about breaking up the text was actually some constructive feedback.

    Posted by: Donny B | Sep 30, 2009 12:41:30 PM

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