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What If You Were Barred From a Loved One's Deathbed?

What If You Were Barred From a Loved One's Deathbed?

That's exactly what happened to Janice Langbehn and her children when her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, suddenly collapsed from an aneurysm during a family vacation and was rushed to a Miami hospital. Langbehn and her adopted children with Pond waited for hours before being informed of her condition, and when it became clear it was serious, they were barred from seeing her.

Langbehn claimed that a hospital social worker told her she was in an "anti-gay city and state" and would need health proxies — living wills, advanced directives and power-of-attorney documents — in order to see Pond. She had the papers faxed to the hospital, but when all was said and done, Langbehn and her kids saw Pond as she was unconscious and being administered her last rites by a priest.

This tragic case is now the subject of a federal lawsuit in Florida and in a sense affects all people whose primary loved ones are not their legal spouses — like close friends and unmarried straight couples. Why should an anonymous hospital administrator get to tell you who your "real" family is if you've made clear in writing who that is?

I don't know about you, but when I imagine someone barring me from seeing someone I love who is in their loneliest, scariest hour, I think they'd have to call in police reinforcements. In a more just world, that wouldn't have to happen.


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