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A Year After Death, Lesbian Fights for Justice for Partner

Lambda Legal news release:

Lambda Legal Advocates for Washington Woman Denied Visitation with Dying Partner in Miami Hospital.

Miami -- "There is nothing that can make up for what my children and I endured that day," said Lambda Legal client Janice Langbehn about the way she was treated on the day her partner, Lisa Pond, died. "We only want the hospital to take responsibility for how they treated us and ensure that it doesn't happen to another family."

On the one-year anniversary of Lisa Pond's death, Lambda Legal announces its intent to file a lawsuit on behalf of Pond's same-sex partner and family.

A year ago Janice Langbehn's partner of nearly 18 years was pronounced brain dead after being stricken with a brain aneurysm. While at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, she was met with prejudice and apathy. Janice and her family were consistently denied visitation and didn't see Lisa until many hours after she was admitted. Lambda Legal has officially sent a notice of intent to sue to the hospital on Janice's behalf.

"The treatment that Janice and her children received was unethical and discriminatory," said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "This letter puts them on notice that we are advocating for justice for Janice and her children."

While on a family cruise leaving from Miami Lisa Pond, a healthy 39 year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital with her partner Janice and three children following close behind. There, the hospital refused to accept information from Janice about her partner'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.

In accordance with Florida law, Lambda Legal is waiting for the hospital to respond to the notice of intent to sue before formally filing a complaint with the court. The hospital has six months from January 14th, the date of Lambda Legal's letter, to respond.

Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta is lead counsel on the case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Donald J. Hayden of Baker & McKenzie, LLP.

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