Monday, May 18, 2009

Lesbian Sues Hospital for Denying Access to Dying Partner of 18 Years

How do you justify keeping children away from their dying mother? The same rotten way you justify keeping a woman away from her dying partner of 18 years. This breaks my heart. Suing the hospitals is an idea whose time has come! But I wish someone would sue the little bigoted self-absorbed lawmakers who are the ones most responsible for so much pain and grief.

C'mon Obama, there's still time to do the right thing and put a lesbian on the Supreme Court. You want empathy? Kathleen Sullivan's got plenty of empathy for the many targets of bigotry from the likes of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito.

When a loved one is in the hospital, you naturally want to be at the bedside. But what if the staff won’t allow it? That’s what Janice Langbehn, a social worker in Lacey, Wash., says she experienced when her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, collapsed with an aneurysm during a Florida vacation and was taken to a Miami trauma center. She died there, at age 39, as Ms. Langbehn tried in vain to persuade hospital officials to let her visit, along with the couple’s adopted children.

“I have this deep sense of failure for not being at Lisa’s bedside when she died,” Ms. Langbehn said. “How I get over that I don’t know, or if I ever do.”

The case, now the subject of a federal lawsuit in Florida, is being watched by gay rights groups, which say same-sex partners often report being excluded from a patient’s room because they aren’t “real” family members. And lawyers say the case could affect the way hospitals treat all patients with nonmarital relationships, including older people who choose not to marry, unmarried heterosexual couples and single people who rely on the support of close friends rather than relatives.

A similar lawsuit is under way in Washington State, where Sharon Reed says she was denied access to her partner of 17 years, Jo Ann Ritchie, who was dying of liver failure. Although the hospital had liberal visitation policies, a night nurse from an employment agency insisted that Ms. Reed leave her partner’s room, the lawsuit says.

“One of the things her partner said to her was, ‘I’m afraid of dying. Don’t leave me alone,’ ” said Judith A. Lonnquist, a lawyer for Ms. Reed. “That’s why the suffering was so enormous — she felt as if her partner was thinking she had betrayed her trust.” In both cases, the couples had prepared for a medical emergency, creating living wills, advanced directives and power-of-attorney documents.