Lesbian Seeks Justice for Deceased Partner

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Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, together 18 years, had planned to take their three children on a family cruise. But just as they were about to depart from Miami, Lisa, a healthy 39-year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with Janice and the children following close behind.

Almost immediately they encountered prejudice and apathy. The hospital refused to accept information from Janice about Lisa’s medical history. Janice was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.

Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Janice’s request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor’s acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Janice nor her children were allowed to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival. Soon after Lisa’s death, Janice tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.

“There is nothing that can make up for what my children and I endured that day,” Janice says of the day Lisa died. “We only want the hospital to take responsibility for how they treated us and ensure that it doesn’t happen to another family.”

The case is Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial Hospital.

March 4, 2008