Indiana Woman Barred From Same-Sex Partner’s Hospital Room

HospitalAn Indianapolis woman, Sarah Bray, 34, has been kept from seeing her partner after her partner suffered from a drug overdose in an apparent suicide attempt, according to The Indianapolis Star. Bray's partner, whose name is being withheld due to the nature of her hospitalization, is currently unconscious and is recovering at Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis. Bray's partner was brought there Wednesday after Bray's two sons (ages 10 and 12 respectively) discovered Bray's partner on the bathroom floor, foaming at the mouth at 6 AM. Bray, an employee of St. Francis, then took her partner to the hospital and shortly after called her partner's mother to inform her of the news. Unfortunately, as soon as her partner's mother arrived, Bray and her two sons were told they could no longer visit with Bray's partner. The situation has not abated:

Bray said she hasn’t been allowed to see her partner since, claiming that the hospital ­sided with her partner’s mother’s wishes to keep her away. Bray said her partner’s mother does not support their relationship, which is why the mother didn’t want her in the room. When reached by phone Wednesday for comment, the patient’s mother said, “We’re not interested,” and hung up.

“She’s playing with the wrong person,” Bray said, “because I know that I have rights, and I’m going to fight for those rights no matter what.”

Many, including GetEqual Indiana spokesman David Stevens, are calling this "a clear violation of LGBT hospital visitation rights,” citing President Obama's 2010 directive that granted "hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners at hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid — even in states such as Indiana that don’t recognize same-sex partnerships." Spurring on even more questions is the fact that the burden of proof for banning someone from visiting a patient, even if the request comes from a family member or an official next-of-kin representative, is fairly high:

A next-of-kin representative must make a strong argument to ban someone from ­visiting a patient, such as concerns over disruption or harm to the patient.

“You’d have to have a good reason,” said Jennifer A. Drobac, a professor of law at the Indiana University Robert H. ­McKin­ney School of Law in Indianapolis. “It would have to boil down to a medically necessary decision.”

Banning someone simply because of animosity or disapproval of an individual — which Bray says is happening in her partner’s case — isn’t a strong enough argument, Drobac said.

“That clearly is discrimination,” she said.

Joe Stuteville, a hospital spokesman, acknowledged that the hospital usually gives the upper hand to a patient’s next-of-kin representative to ­determine who can or can’t visit. “Without having the specifics on this case,” he said, “I can only say we do not discriminate. We understand end-of-life issues.”

Bray has been together with her partner since May but has known her for the past 13 years. She says the couple had made plans to marry in nearby Iowa and picked out wedding rings just this past Tuesday.

(Photo via Facebook)


  1. jtramon says

    There’s got to be a lot more to this story. Suicide attempt?

    If you’ve got two children, have picked out wedding rings, are planning a wedding, but you haven’t done the basics to protect yourselves legally such as getting all your legal documents in order – especially in a state like Indiana – you leave yourselves open to exactly this scenerio.

    Let this be a lesson to everyone out there. Don’t be stupid and just assume family members will not call the shots.

    That being said, something has seriously gone wrong in this relationship

  2. MikeKV says

    $10 says the mother used the fact that her daughter was in there for an attempted suicide to keep the partner away. I’d think that’d qualify as *more* than enough ‘proof’, whether the suicide attempt is a result of problems in the relationship or not…

  3. BigGuy says

    This is handled by an assistant to HHS Secretary Sebelius calling the hospital treasurer at home today and calmly explaining that under the law, all federal government payments to the hospital are to be stopped.

  4. Gigi says

    @JTRAMON — Speaking as someone who’s suffered from [at times] debilitating depression most of his adult life I can tell you that nothing need be wrong in a relationship for one to contemplate/attempt suicide. I was with my man for more than 7 years when I found myself on a bridge contemplating suicide. The problem wasn’t our relationship. The problem was my depression. Luckily I didn’t go through with it. We celebrate our 25th anniversary in March, 2014. :)

    @ANKERICH — What’s fishy is that, not knowing all of the facts, you think something must be fishy. Stuff like this happens all the time, which is why we have to protect ourselves BEFORE something unthinkable happens. Just look at the Tom Bridegroom story. Very, very sad.

  5. Thrutch says

    It could be the partner was banned at request of the paitient, also if your in the psych ward, visitation hours are quite limited and the amount of ppl controlled as well

  6. anon says

    Where are these hospitals with guards at every room blocking people from visiting? Clearly the patient has some severe issues. A determination of suicide attempt would require a full inquiry, so it’s best to say apparent suicide attempt. For the hospital, how can they determine the rights of visitors without some sort of legal documentation? If you’re just “dating”, there’s hardly a paper trail that can be used to prove the significance and status of the relationship.

  7. says

    I read about this story yesterday. The hospital and the patient’s partner have different stories about whether and how much visitation has been allowed. What does seem clear is that the hospital is giving the “family” priority over the “significant other” (their terms), and that the mother is calling the shots. How and why the hospital made that decision and how it squares with what the patient would want (if she were conscious) are unanswered questions.

    Obama’s directive would place a high burden on the family to bar the patient’s partner from visiting, but if a couple is not married and has no legal documents in place and there is a dispute, the so-called family may be given priority. If I’m reading the Indianapolis Star correctly, the patient is an employee of the hospital, so you would think she would be known to staff?

    All I know is if a hospital tried to keep me from my husband in a medical crisis there would be hell to pay, which is why I’m glad we are now legally fully covered, though I’ve never had a problem with our local medical facilities (they’ve always treated us as spouses even when we weren’t)–but I haven’t had disapproving relatives to deal with either.

  8. Eric says

    I’m surprised that no one in the comments has picked up an even more obvious cause: the fact that the hospital is Franciscan.

    You can let them know how you feel on Twitter @StFrancisHealth

  9. Kevin_BGFH says

    @JTRamon – “If you’ve got two children, have picked out wedding rings, are planning a wedding, but you haven’t done the basics to protect yourselves legally such as getting all your legal documents in order – especially in a state like Indiana – you leave yourselves open to exactly this scenerio.”

    Why does that seem strange? They were planning a wedding in nearby Iowa. The marriage licensing IS getting their documents in order. Even living in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage, a marriage license would have more than sufficed for a hospital receiving federal funding.

    Sure, no couple — same-sex or opposite-sex — should consider their marriage license to be the sole legal document they need. But it was a very logical first step.

  10. Kevin_BGFH says

    I should add that an important point is that while they’d known each other for 13 years, they had only been a couple for under a year. So it’s not like they waited 13 years and had kids together before dealing with legal paperwork. The kids predated their relationship, which was still pretty new.

  11. Craig says

    “…(ages 10 and 12 respectively)…” Unless the sons are named you don’t need to use the word “respectively.”

  12. mododavid says

    SUE!! I hope they don’t collect medicare and medicaid reimbursements because they won’t collect them for long.

  13. Bob says

    GET IT ON PAPER, FOLKS — this is a perfect example of the reasons.

    If she had a legal document granting her medical power of attorney, Mom would be out in the waiting room

  14. Mike says

    I don’t think visitation should be one or the other. But if it has to be, I think mother trumps girlfriend of 6 months.

  15. Endorado says

    People, it sounds like you expect the hospital to take the word of whomever says they are next of kin or shares the address. That’s just not good enough. There has to be some paper, and I would advise you to be careful whom you give that status to.

    Let me ask you this: should the girlfriend be able to close out this woman’s bank accounts and sell her stuff? No? Then you really don’t see her as a spouse because spouses can do that. Roommates have been known to do it, and evaporate into the night.

    The hospital is being careful.

  16. Jenny 0 says

    Joe Stuteville;. “I can only say we do not discriminate. We understand end-of-life issues.”

    Liar, Liar, Hospital Greens on Fire!

    Fire the Liar!

  17. Joan Tichenor says

    This is INDIANA for you!!!
    That MOTHER is evil and so is the Hospital.
    Many MEN AND WOMEN COUPLES hve had a partner “Overdose”, but the partner was allowed in to see their partner. This is a violation of the LAW and I hope the partners SUES the Mother, The State of IND and the Hospital.
    Ind bans Marriage for Gay couples and THIS is the result……………SAD!! BAN IND, BAN ST FRANCIS!!!

  18. Jake says

    It’s the fault of the patient for not creating legal documentation that explicitly prohibits the mother from having ANY influence and rights, so far as her medical care is concerned.

    It isn’t rocket-science, people. I am sickened by these stories about abuse at the hands of unsupportive family members, but when you already KNOW that family is not respectful and capable of treating your relationship with the respect you feel it deserves, you need to take the appropriate measures to nullify their negative influence.

    They aren’t married; this is just another example of not taking your responsibilities seriously…

  19. Ann Nono Miss says

    Ha Ha the joke is on all of you, sarah was married at the time of this incident, married to a man. Her last name is Sowl, not Bray, she is not a lesbian , she does not have ownership in Jen’s home, she tried to say she owned Jen’s new SUV, the two kids are from 2 of the 5 MEN she married, she holds at least 3 facebook account plus she is on dating sites currently stating she is looking “for a nice MAN” not woman. She has been abusive in both her male and female relationships. This whole thing was about getting Jen out of the way so she could steal her things just like she has done in the past. She fed her sons prescription drugs that were intended for a mentally disturbed person so she could collect SSI checks for them. She was just arrested again recently for driving under the influence of a illegal substance. So put that in your pipes and smoke it. So stop the pity party, this woman left her so called beloved partner for dead on the floor for hours and left her kids to have to deal with it. And brags on fb how she is such a good mom, and threatens to go to school to be a social worker…scary. They are letting her see her sons even though they know she is violent, she barely spent 2 month in jail and now she roams scott free just trolling for her next victim, well hopefully you get the memo so don’t get fooled.