President Obama Issues Memo on LGBT Health Issues; Calls Janice Langbehn from Air Force One
(New York, NY, April 15, 2010) — Late today Lambda Legal learned that, after signing a memo directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to address hospital visitation and other health care issues affecting LGBT families, President Barack Obama called Lambda Legal client Janice Langbehn to express his sympathies for the tragic loss of her partner Lisa Pond and the treatment she suffered.
"The steps that President Obama outlined tonight are a great leap forward in addressing discrimination affecting LGBT patients and their families," said Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal Executive Director. "These measures are intended to ensure that no family will have to experience what the Langbehn-Pond family did that night at Jackson Memorial Hospital. We are so proud of Janice and her family — she stood up and told her story and it made a difference."
Last September, a federal district court rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn, ruling that no law required the hospital to allow her and their three children to see her partner. Langbehn and the children were kept apart from Pond by hospital staff for eight hours as Pond slipped into a coma and later died. After that Lambda Legal worked with other LGBT organizations and officials at Jackson Memorial Hospital to change hospital policies on visitation and respecting the wishes of same-sex couples and their families.
The President's memorandum to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services includes the following: HHS should promulgate rules for hospitals that receive Medicaid or Medicare funds that require them to respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. HHS should also take steps to ensure that such hospitals have adequate policies to respect the legal documents that some patients have designating who can make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. Finally, the President directs HHS to report back to him in 180 days with additional recommendations about actions it can take to address hospital visitation, medical decision-making and other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.
"It was very rewarding to hear 'I'm sorry,' from the President because that's what I have wanted to hear from Jackson Memorial since the night Lisa died, " said Janice Langbehn. "I hope that taking these steps makes sure that no family ever has to experience the nightmare that my family has gone through."
Contact: Lisa Hardaway; 212-809-8585 x 266; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.