University of Maryland Medical System to be Sued Wednesday by Gay Man Prevented from Visiting His Dying Partner at Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore
(BALTIMORE, February 27, 2002) - Told by hospital staff in Baltimore that he could not visit his dying life partner because he was not the partner’s family, Bill Flanigan, a resident of San Francisco, today sued the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Flanigan’s partner of five years, Robert Daniel, had been admitted to the medical system’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore on October 16, 2000, from complications arising from AIDS. Flanigan and Daniel were on their way to visit Flanigan’s sister in the Washington, D.C. area, where a nearby hospital transferred Daniel to the Shock Trauma Center - part of the University of Maryland Medical System - because of Daniel’s critical condition.
As he was kept in the waiting area of the Shock Trauma Center, Flanigan asked staff members to allow him to see Daniel and to confer with Daniel’s physicians. They told him only “family” members were allowed to do so, and that “partners” did not qualify.
Flanigan explained he had a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and that he and Daniel were registered as domestic partners (in California). The Shock Trauma Center also had the records of the first hospital to which Daniel was admitted, where Flanigan was recognized as family, having spent the night in a chair by Daniel’s bed.
The Shock Trauma Center acted quite differently. For four hours, personnel kept Flanigan away from Daniel and his doctors - meanwhile allowing family members of other patients to visit their loved ones and confer with doctors. Flanigan, on the other hand, was not given the opportunity to make surgeons aware of Daniel’s wish not to have life-prolonging measures performed on him, including the insertion of a breathing tube.
After four hours, Daniel’s sister and mother arrived from out of town. Only then did the Shock Trauma Center provide information on Daniel’s status that had been repeatedly denied to Flanigan, and subsequently allow the entire family, including Flanigan, to see Daniel. By that point, Daniel was no longer conscious, his eyes were taped shut, and the two men never had the chance to say goodbye.
“Tragically, gay and lesbian partners too often have to argue their right to hospital visitation with ill loved ones, even in the middle of a family crisis,” said David Buckel, Lambda Legal’s Senior Attorney on the case. “But rarely does it rise to the shocking inhumanity of this case,” he added.
Grace Daniel, the mother of Robert, today said she strongly supports the lawsuit brought by Bill Flanigan.
“Bill and Bobby were soulmates and one of the best couples I’ve known,” Mrs. Daniel said. “They loved each other, took care of each other, came to family holidays as a couple, and Bill still babysits for my grandson. If that isn’t family, then something is very wrong. When someone is dying, hospitals should be bringing families together rather than keeping them apart.”
Particularly painful for Bill Flanigan to see, when he accompanied Mrs. Daniel to Robert Daniel’s room, was that the Shock Trauma Center had inserted a breathing tube into Robert Daniel. When Daniel briefly regained consciousness during one of the final two nights of his life, he, according to a nurse who was with him after visiting hours, attempted to pull out the breathing tube. Shock Trauma Center personnel, in response, tied down Daniel’s arms - which might have been unnecessary had Flanigan been given the opportunity to confer with doctors about Daniel’s wishes.
“When you love someone and make a commitment to each other for good times and bad,” Bill Flanigan said today, “there is an awful feeling when you can’t follow through on your promises. I have a huge hole in my heart, and my soul, because I wasn’t allowed to be with Bobby when he needed me most. I can only pray that everyone helps to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”
Not only did the Shock Trauma Center knowingly violate the Health Care Power of Attorney that Flanigan had on behalf of Daniel, but it also violated national hospital accreditation standards for hospitals. Those standards define “family” as the person who plays “a significant role in the individual’s life,” and this may include a person “not legally related to the individual.”
Flanigan’s attorney pointed out this tragedy would have not have occurred if Flanigan and his partner has been allowed to marry, which they had hoped to do one day.
“When the government won’t let you marry, not even protecting yourself through legal documents will guarantee that the person closest to you will be allowed to be by your side during times of crisis,” said Lambda Legal’s David Buckel. “We are a nation divided by discrimination in marriage - and Bill and Robert paid a terrible price for that discrimination.” Serving as pro bono cooperating attorneys with Lambda Legal on the case are Stuart Delery, Scott Shepard, and Julie Riewe of the Washington D.C.-based law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering.
In conjunction with this lawsuit, Lambda Legal is distributing an action kit to same-sex partners across the country to help make sure their local hospitals allow them to visit loved ones.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization, dedicated to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered, and people with HIV or AIDS. Headquartered in New York, Lambda Legal has regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and will be opening an office in Dallas in June.
WHAT: Press conference in Flanigan v. A Maryland Hospital
WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney David Buckel; Bill Flanigan, plaintiff; Grace Daniel, mother of Robert Daniel
WHERE: Holiday Inn Inner Harbor, 301 West Lombard Street, Camden View Room, Baltimore
WHEN: Wednesday, February 27 at noon
Contact: Steven Goldstein 917-449-8918