Hospital updates visitation policy to include gay partners as family members

Three years after coming under fire for prohibiting a lesbian to visit her dying partner, Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital has turned over a new leaf--to an extent. 

Although the hospital changed its visitation policy to include same-sex partners as part of its "family member" definition and adopted a non-discrimination policy that encompasses sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, it hasn't implemented a full grievance procedure in the event of visitation denial, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports.

Jackson Memorial found itself at the center of controversy in February 2007 after refusing to allow Janice Langbehn to see her partner Lisa Pond after Pond collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. At the time, the hospital refused to accept a medical history for Pond from Langbehn, and told Langbehn that she was "in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family," according to a Lambda Legal press release from 2008. Langbehn finally was granted visitation eight hours after Pond's admittance to the hospital, but Pond, who went into a coma, died shortly afterward. 

"Jackson Memorial Hospital should have been able to provide immediate resources to Janice Langbehn when she wasn't allowed to be with her partner Lisa hour after hour as she lay dying in the hospital," said Beth Littrell, an attorney with Lambda, which represented Langbehn in a lawsuit against the hospital that ultimately was dismissed last September. "We don't want the Langbehn-Pond nightmare to happen to another family." 

The hospital system wrote in a release that it was "pleased to be able to...advance LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) sensitivity and inclusivity in JHS policies. 

"[P]roviding equal treatment and care for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, or other aspects of personal identity, is of paramount importance in healthcare settings," the release continued. "It creates an environment in which all patients feel safe and comfortable receiving treatment, which results in a higher quality of patient care." 

To learn more:
- read this San Diego Gay & Lesbian News piece
- here's the Jackson Health announcement
- here's Lambda's response to the news
- here's Langbehn's reaction to the news
- check out Lambda's initial announcement of the lawsuit
- here's the dismissal of the lawsuit