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Advocacy Groups Urge Jackson Memorial Hospital To Revise Visitation Policies On Same Sex Partners, Miami

The Committee for Fair Visitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a coalition of gay rights organizations, today submitted a letter to the Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County requesting a meeting to discuss the hospital’s position that they do not have to provide same-sex partners the right to visit each other in their hospital. The Committee also hopes to discuss ways in which the hospital can revise their visitation policies and practices to allow for equal and nondiscriminatory treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. 

The Committee for Fair Visitation at Jackson Memorial was formed in light of Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial, Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of Janice Langbehn and her children who were denied visitation with the children’s mother and Janice’s partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond. While Lisa lay dying in the hospital for eight hours, Jackson Memorial refused to accept information from Janice about her partner’s medical history. Janice was informed that she was “in an antigay city and state,” and she could expect to receive no acknowledgment as family. Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Janice’s request to perform last rites, and despite a doctor’s acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Janice nor their children were allowed to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival. 

Originally filed in June 2008, Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial, now awaits a decision on the Public Health Trust’s motion to dismiss the case on the basis that they have neither an obligation to allow their patients’ visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to their patients’ families, healthcare surrogates, and visitors. 

“Janice’s case illustrates the fact that discrimination in healthcare settings is still far too common for LGBT individuals,” said James Beaudreau of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA). “No one should be told that they do not fit the definition of ‘family’ after rushing a loved one to the emergency room.” 

GLMA is now working with The Committee for Fair Visitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital to prevent what happened to Janice’s family from happening to other families. Members of the Committee include Equality Florida, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Lambda Legal, Save Dade, and the Fort Lauderdale LGBT Center. In the letter submitted to the hospital, the Committee calls on the hospital to carry out its commitment to quality patient care for all by adopting an all-inclusive visitation policy. As it exists, the official position of the Public Health Trust is that hospital employees have no obligation to allow their patients visitors and do not have to allow a healthcare surrogate to see the patient in order to make decisions. The hospital also maintains that they do not have to share any “particular amount of information” with family members. 

The Committee has requested an opportunity to meet with members of the Public Health Trust Board of Trustees in order to discuss these issues. They have requested a reply by April 24, 2009. 

GLMA’s mission is to ensure equality in health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and health care providers.

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