Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial Hospital

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Status: Closed
District court for the southern district of florida
Issues: Health Care Fairness, Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Case challenging a hospital's decision to keep a lesbian from visiting her dying partner.

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Just as Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond were about to depart from Miami on a family cruise with their three children, Pond suddenly collapsed. From the moment Langbehn and the children arrived at Jackson Memorial Hospital, they encountered prejudice and apathy. Even though Langbehn held Pond’s durable health care power of attorney, the hospital refused to accept information from Langbehn regarding Pond's medical history. The hospital also informed her that she was in an antigay city and state and that she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. A doctor finally spoke with Langbehn, telling her that there was no chance of recovery. Despite the doctor's acknowledgment that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Langbehn nor her children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival. Soon after Pond's death, Langbehn attempted to obtain her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for her children. She was denied both by the state of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner. Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital, on behalf of Janice Langbehn and her three children.


Because they are prohibited from marrying, gay and lesbian partners too often have to argue their right to hospital visits with ill loved ones. National standards for hospital accreditation allow visitation to family members; people not legally related are considered family members if they play a significant role in the patient's life.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This case illustrates the need for hospitals to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex relationships so that loved ones are not kept apart at a time when they most need each other. Furthermore, hospitals are fully responsible for adhering to national standards for accreditation and should be held liable if those standards are not met. Lambda Legal has published a life planning tool-kit, a portion of which is designed to help same-sex partners protect themselves in a hospital setting by preparing legal documents in advance.