Lesbian partner denied access
February 7, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Suit alleges that her partner of 18 years and her children were denied access to dying woman in Florida hospital. Due to her organ donation, however, Lisa Marie Pond’s heart survives.
posted by Morrigan (38 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will sleep better tonight knowing that Ken Starr is fighting to make sure all married gay couples in California have this kind of treatment to look forward to in the future. Thanks America.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:09 PM on February 7, 2009


In those 3 hours desperate for information about Lisa, I paced and watched other families being brought back into the trauma center, yet my family waited, with no word about Lisa’s condition. Our children Danielle, David, Katie and I all lost the ability to be with Lisa in her last moments of consciousness, to hold her hand and to say goodbye and that is something that can never be given back to our family.
posted by Corduroy at 10:48 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


A terrible tragedy made so much worse. Shameful.
posted by goshling at 11:55 PM on February 7, 2009


Petty, ugly little people. What have the evil gays done to you? For fuck sakes, just leave them be and stop picking on them you bullies.

Aside from legislation and rules, there is just a failure of empathy and fairness here. I don't think that in an "anti-gay" state anyone would be suing if they had let the lady in to see her partner. The lack of compassion here seems almost gleeful. I wonder if that social worker gloated to his family about how he "put a lesbian in her place" that day.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:01 AM on February 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Y'know, I have to say that it seems like it's been a couple of decades that anybody to the left of Rush Limbaugh has been finishing off their "gay marriage contravenes God's plan and ruins our culture" speeches by hastily adding, oh-so-humanely, that they're of course not against partners visiting each other in the hospital and such, they just don't want marriages between gays.

Are we ever going to put paid to that? I mean, it seems like it would be a step in the right direction. Why the hell can't people designate the people that are allowed to visit them in the hospital, gay or straight aside?

But, though this seems like an easy and simple issue to legislate, the implication in this case are indeed unfortunate. Meatbomb's right; this kind of blatant disregard for humanity doesn't really happen unless somebody's got something to prove.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What Corduroy quotes got me too, but also the thought that Lisa in her dying moments was denied having her loved ones around. We don't know how much she was aware of, and to deny anyone at that time to have the people who brought her in and obviously care for her to be there is all kinds of fucked up. People die alone all the time in accidents and at home, but she had people around her, why stop them from seeing her?
posted by dabitch at 3:21 AM on February 8, 2009


Ok, this might be somewhat off-topic but bear with me:

Why don't people lie in those kinds of situations?

I mean, seriously, do the doctors check the papers in those situations (I really have no idea, please inform me)? Why couldn't she just say "I'm her sister" and sit with her for the last few hours?
I'm not trying to be flippant or disrespectful here, but that strikes me as the same kind of situation I hate in many horror movies: "Yes, officer, good thing I could finally get through to someone on the phone - listen, we have a zombie invasion here! The dead are rising and... hello? Hello?" Why do those people never come up with something plausible? "Yes, officer, there has been a... chemical terrorist attack! Send the national guard in bio-warfare equipment! Thanks, I'll wait!"

The point I'm trying to make is that I'd have no qualms about lying in those types of situations. I'm aware that gay / lesbian couples should not have to do something like this, but wouldn't it be worth fighting over it after it has happened? I completely understand fighting the principle of the thing, but what would be gained and what would be lost by approaching it from a don't-play-by-their-rules angle?
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:47 AM on February 8, 2009


PontifexPrimus - people DO lie in this situation sometimes, but as a lesbian wife I can tell you that if my wife were in the hospital I wouldn't have the presence of mind or the desire to do so, let alone convince my kid to play along.
We're out everywhere, in all aspects of our lives, in part so our daughter knows she's a part of a loving and stable family, no better or worse than any other.
In such a terrible moment, the last thing I'd want to do would be to show my kid that we aren't safe and worthy of the dignity and privacy every family deserves, so we have to lie to be together. I think the scars my child would have from seeing me toss our marriage under the bus would be as bad as the scars I'd have not being able to see my wife in her last minutes.
We have power of attorney, medical living wills, etc, and have spent more on family lawyers than most people do until they go through an ugly divorce, all to set up safety nets around situations like this. But there are still countries, and some states, that we avoid when planning travel. Florida is one of them. This issue has been stuck at a really shrill, fever-pitch Anita Bryant hatred plateau there for over 20 years, and many otherwise normal, kind people are absolutely out of their minds with fear of families like mine.
posted by pomegranate at 4:26 AM on February 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


Her life partner of 18 years, Janice Langbehn, said the hospital would not allow her and the couple's three children to see Pond.

A hospital is a building. Concrete, wood, glass, maybe some tiles and some metal. The hospital didn't deny her shit. What happened was that someone in reception denied her access. Or an administrator. A person, or persons had to make that choice. Had any link in the chain of authority demonstrated some reason and/or compassion, this could all have been avoided. Instead you have a series of spineless decisions made not for the benefit of the sick patient, but to cover the asses of a bunch of sycophants.

The business of treating the sick is sick.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:01 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient; It's actually pretty important to make this about The Hospital. Just like if you had a problem with some dumbass in a college setting, it would be The College that gave you trouble. Yes, of course it comes down to a person, but that person is a representative of the organization, and it's the organization that needs to be held responsible.
posted by odinsdream at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I hate intolerant people.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to get in the way of the outrage (and this is outrageous and unacceptable) but buried at the bottom of the first article is "JMH's visitation policy allows visitors to see a patient once he or she is medically stabilized." Reading the account, it doesn't sound like that ever happened.

Were the staff a problem? Yes, it sounds like they treated her terribly.

Would she have gotten in if she were her husband or sister? That's not as clear.

Either way, I hope she wins.

> "Are we ever going to put paid to that? I mean, it seems like it would be a step in the right direction. Why the hell can't people designate the people that are allowed to visit them in the hospital, gay or straight aside?"

I don't know. Families don't get formed by court order or legal precedent, and it's time we started recognizing that.
posted by ivey at 7:25 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]



I bet if her local god representative showed up he/she would have been granted access.
posted by notreally at 7:48 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hospitals are well aware of these situations, and in most cases the staff are very sympathetic to the family.

Enter The Lawyers.

The Hospital cannot let "non-family" in. Period. If they did, that would mean anybody and everybody gets in. So when your wife is in the hospital, the rapist who assaulted her and is out on bail gets in to see her. Also, they can't have just any swinging piece of meat in the room with the patient, they need to limit the number of people for purely practical reasons - they arbitrarily draw the line at family, but for legal reasons, they have to go by the legal definition of "family".

And legally, there is no room for sympathy. Period.

I ran into something that seems equally unreasonable, but is based on the law and it's precedents. I used to work across the street from County Hospital. A woman collapsed and had a seizure outside the hospital, on the sidewalk, literally thirty feet from the door of the ER. I ran in to get someone to come get her. They told me to call an ambulance. they would not get her nor would they go outside to see to her. I was dumbfounded. After thinking about it sometime later, I realized that it's all about their insurance. The hospital is not an ambulance service. It makes no difference in court if the person is thirty feet away or thirty miles. Call the ambulance.

You can thank the U.S. legal system and the insurance companies.
posted by Xoebe at 8:16 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously just tell them you are the sister, brother, whatever it takes. They don't check. IMHO It is not the hospital's job to check marital or familial status, and I'm sure they would rather not even be put in the position to have to make a decision, so the less they know the better.
posted by Gungho at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2009


Bastards. Evil bastards.
posted by theefixedstars at 8:46 AM on February 8, 2009


Civil_Disobedient: A hospital is a building. Concrete, wood, glass, maybe some tiles and some metal. The hospital didn't deny her shit. What happened was that someone in reception denied her access. Or an administrator. A person, or persons had to make that choice. Had any link in the chain of authority demonstrated some reason and/or compassion, this could all have been avoided. Instead you have a series of spineless decisions made not for the benefit of the sick patient, but to cover the asses of a bunch of sycophants.

Ohh please. What a way to weasel around the problem with a bunch of middle-school level wankery. It's not only bad form to nitpick on her words in this way, it's also factually incorrect, or at least incorrect as a debate about the meaning of words can be. At least in commonly documented usage, a hospital is an institutional organization, and its certainly not a concrete, wood and glass building that treats patients, collects bills, and defines policy.

Which is why she's suing the hospital and not a single person. Because the problem is systemic within the institution rather than embodied in a single individual who could be repremanded, fired, or reassigned until the next time we have this problem.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can thank the U.S. legal system and the insurance companies.

Or you could read the articles.
posted by stet at 8:59 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]




Seriously just tell them you are the sister, brother, whatever it takes. They don't check. IMHO It is not the hospital's job to check marital or familial status, and I'm sure they would rather not even be put in the position to have to make a decision, so the less they know the better.


But you wouldn't know you needed to do this until after you'd already tried the truth and been turned down, and then they'd know you were lying - at least until you could catch someone else to ask.
posted by dilettante at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's so fucking scary to know that we can jump through hoops, file all the right paperwork, do all the legal stuff we can and yet this could be me and my wife. The idea of being kept away like that by a handful of people is terrifying. I don't know where it's safe for us to be.
posted by CwgrlUp at 9:21 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And one of the reasons why lying isn't sufficient is because this isn't just about visitation. It's about being able to faithfully execute responsibility as the person entrusted with medical and legal powers of attorney. It's fucking absurd to give Langbehn the power to make medical decisions for Pond and not allow Langbehn reasonable access to Pond.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:55 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wait for the day when this is an aberration that sparks, not media outrage, like Lisa's case, but immediate horrified correction by others in the room. A day when the Mr. Fredericks of the world could not dream of saying to someone "you are in an anti-gay state" any more than he could say "we don't treat n*ggers."

LGBT need to know that you are not alone. We are your straight brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, friends and coworkers and we are fighting this fight with you.
posted by nax at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Feel free to directly contact State representatives, folk.

That bit about "Yes we can"? It's all about you making the effort to push for change.

Ain't shit gonna happen if you don't tell your State representatives that you are deeply unhappy with the way things are.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:45 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The seemingly simple act of pretending to be The Sister or The Cousin or The Brother invites all sorts of bullshit that you'd not want to deal with when the love of your life is potentially dying.

"Is he/she married? How do we contact the [insert appropriate opposite-sex spouse title]?"

"Where's the [insert appropriate opposite-sex parent] of his/her children? How do we contact them?"
posted by CKmtl at 10:45 AM on February 8, 2009


Plus having to spin a yarn about adoption or blended families if the two of you are of different races or have absolutely nothing approaching a family resemblance.
posted by CKmtl at 11:07 AM on February 8, 2009


Dr. Garnet Fredrick, a social worker, was very blunt in telling me that I was in “an anti-gay city and state” and that I would need a health care proxy before I was allowed to see my partner of nearly 18 years or know of her condition.

He was just trying to be helpful. You see, if gay people become critically ill, they are supposed to instruct ambulance drivers to take them to Massachusetts.
posted by terranova at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's more than only a gay rights issue. This is also about compassion. How can the hospital staff - who, ostensibly, should be full of compassion - lack so much for people who are obviously very attached to the dying person and vice-versa?

I can't imagine how it must feel to hide behind legalities to justify one's lack of compassion and human decency.
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2009


Ohh please. What a way to weasel around the problem with a bunch of middle-school level wankery. [...] the problem is systemic within the institution rather than embodied in a single individual who could be repremanded, fired, or reassigned until the next time we have this problem

You want to talk about weaseling around a problem, take a look in the mirror. Just blame "the system" because nothing is ever anybody's fault. No, no. It's administration... yep, can't do nothing about it. You'll have to talk to the boss. Their call, not mine.

And the administration will blame it on the bean counters, who tell them it's just too expensive to risk a lawsuit, and you know it wouldn't have to be this way if it just weren't for all the lawyers. But the lawyers, well you can't blame them. We live in a free system where yada yada yada and you know, the real problem is with the laws.

So it's the legislative folks! Yeah! It's their fault. Stupid laws! If we could just get the folks who pass the laws to see the bright light of reason! And who do you think the legislatures blame?

That's right: you. Because their aren't enough people taking a stand against this sort of bullshit. "Sorry, kid, my advisers say the numbers just aren't there right now. Try again in a few years."

It's not a system, it's not an institution, it's not the leaders and it's not fucking god. It's you and it's me and the rest is just bullshit to cloud the issue.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: Ok, I'm going to be generous and polite.

Civil rights movements don't happen because people "take a stand," shake their fist, and make angry faces.

They happen because activists think in terms of institutional change, and get down, dirty and political in order to convince, shame, or encourage those institutions to adopt less discriminatory policies. Sometimes that means strong-arming the people responsible for making these decisions, sometimes it means replacing them.

The reason why we have law and activism that works on the systemic and institutional level is because it doesn't really matter who has that power. Playing musical chairs by holding individual people responsible just means you put a new person at the helm of a biased enterprise.

If we want justice on this issue in Florida, we need for three things to happen:

1) the civil rights of domestic partners must be respected by law
2) hospitals need to have policies protecting the rights of domestic partners
3) individual staff need to be convinced that offering their services in a non-discriminatory way is a central part of their job.

Without all three, you create a situation where the rights of domestic partners are vulnerable to the whims of individual employees and contexts.

Now posting a bunch of angry words about personal accountability, blah, blah, blah, using your $5 lifetime metafilter account certainly makes you feel better. But it doesn't qualify as activism and it certainly isn't going to change anything.

What do we need to do?
1) Work for the repeal of Amendment 2 in Florida.
2) Financially support legal challenges against hospitals. Legal challenges against individual employees will have limited effectiveness because the board can just wash their hands of an individual employee and return to business as usual.
3) I think it might be possible to address this issue on the federal level the same way that the federal government prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and religion by most educational institutions that received federal funds.
4) Encourage professional organizations to consider making this kind of discrimination a violation of their ethical standards.

We may march in the streets with our fists raised high expressing our displeasure, but we return to our communities with specific plans of action that we push in the statehouse, city council chambers, union meetings, and in negotiation with employers. Unless you have a plan of action for changing institutional policy, you are bringing nothing to the table more than vague and impotent bullshit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


To which, I might add that such things as laws, mission statements, policies, employee manuals, and court decisions are not fatuous gloss to avoid personal accountability, they are ways in which we shape our social reality such that personal accountability is possible.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:52 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


We can march in the streets. We can shake our fists. We can call our congressman. But the fact is, too many people hate gays. Period. Black people? Well, they can't help they were born black. But us fags, we chose to be this way. And if we'd just choose to blend in, toe the line, be straight and have 2.5 kids and shut the hell up, we'd get rights like everyone else.

After Prop 8 in California, I wonder if we're making any progress at all. People in CA see gay people fairly frequently, I'd say, and can see that gay families don't bite and homosexuality does not rub off. And yet here is Prop 8. It makes a girl from bumfuck Arkansas wonder if there is anywhere we can go and not have to hide.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:40 PM on February 8, 2009


You can come up to Canada. It's better up here. except it snows.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on February 8, 2009


But, what ivey noted from the article IS interesting. The story is a little strange in that the kids were also denied access, although I think it would be easy for anyone to consider them family. To me, this sounds like the situation was so bad, that nobody was going to be allowed to visit at that time while they were working.

We've all heard stories of people who get brain aneurysms and just drop dead--and this woman had to be taken off a boat. I don't know how bad aneurysms get, but obviously this was a bad one, and I bet the delay in getting her to a hospital didn't help.

Also, the timing between this woman being told to get her paperwork, up till the point where she WAS notified of the condition was less than half an hour. That includes the time for her friend to go to their house, find the documents, find a fax, fax it over, have someone receive it and get the right people notified...a half hour actually seems like decent time. Or was that an additional three hours?

It's a sad story, but I'm not 100% ready to blame the hospital staff just yet. Parts of this story just seems like unfortunate timing to be stuck on a cruise.

(Yes, I'm probably not going to make friends with this comment)
posted by razdrez at 8:34 PM on February 8, 2009


God Bless America.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:45 AM on February 9, 2009


Black people? Well, they can't help they were born black. But us fags, we chose to be this way

I'm so fucking tired of this canard. Black people "passed" all the damn time, and did it with just as much fear as gays have today. So on any given day, some could "choose" to be White.

"Normalization" as the blight-wingers like to call it, is the new "Integration".

Maybe Blacks can't help being born Black but the law's on their side now. The Civil Rights Movement made it shameful (for the most part) to be discriminatory. Then it got to be illegal.

I wish there would be no more of these incidents, but I'm afraid there will have to be until the critical mass of people considers it shameful that we treat anybody this way.

The day is coming. Me and my kids are in a Reconciling Methodist congregation, and they know and play with kids with two mommies, two daddies, etc. The under 20 set is pretty underwhelmed by the passion of either side, but they know when fair is fair.
posted by lysdexic at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2009


"Fair is fair" is a concept that could use a lot more promotion.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:48 PM on February 9, 2009


It's reading things like this that make me want to engage in some really, really, really uncivil behavior. Like, say, leaving a flaming bag of dogshit on that hospital's stoop. Petty? Yes. Immature? Yup. But that's how frustrating I find this level of stupidity in the year 2009.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:24 PM on February 9, 2009


I bet if her local god representative showed up he/she would have been granted access.

RTFAA: "When I finally was allowed to see Lisa it was with a Priest to perform her last Rites."
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2009


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