U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan dismissed a lawsuit yesterday, essentially finding that the Jackson Memorial Hospital was within its rights to leave a dying woman alone while denying her present and immediate family permission to visit her, be updated on her condition, or even to provide the hospital with medically necessary information.
Named in the now-dismissed suit were Jackson social worker Garnett Frederick and attending physicians Alois Zauner and Carlos Alberto Cruz, who made the decision not to allow Janice Langbehn, Lisa Pond’s partner, to have standard family access to information, even after receiving durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will naming Janice as legal guardian with authority to make end-of-life decisions.
Jennifer Piedra, spokesperson for Jackson Memorial, released this statement after Judge Jordan said they could continue to turn [lesbian and gay] people away from their dying family members:
We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the patients in their care. At Jackson Health System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve.
Jackson will continue to work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of medical care.
Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. If only there were a way to judge their words against their actions. Oh wait, there is, and guess what! They’re completely and plainly full of it! In March, Janice told the story of Lisa’s final hours:
On February 18, 2007, Lisa Pond, my partner of nearly 18 years and 3 of our 4 adopted children: Danielle, David and Katie were on board the Rfamily cruise preparing to set sail. Before leaving port, Lisa suddenly collapsed while watching the children play basketball. The kids were banging on the stateroom door saying, “Mommy was hurt!” I opened the door, and took one look at Lisa and knew the situation was very serious. As a medical social worker for many years, I have seen people in critical condition. I knew that my life partner was gravely ill. As the ship was about to leave, we had no choice but to seek medical help in an unfamiliar city. After local medics arrived, we hurried off the ship to the closest hospital in Miami, Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
As Lisa was put into the ambulance I had no idea when she signed “I love you” to the kids and I it would be the last time I would see her beautiful blue eyes. We arrived at the trauma center minutes before her ambulance. I tried to follow her gurney into the trauma area and was stopped by the trauma team and told to go to the waiting room. The kids and I did as we were told.
We arrived shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon, around 4pm, a social worker came out and introduced himself as Garnett Frederick and said, “you are in an anti-gay city and state. And without a health care proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition”. He then turned to leave; I stopped him and asked for his fax number because I said “we had legal Durable Powers of Attorney” and would get him the documents. Within a short time of meeting this social worker, I contacted friends in Lacey, WA, our hometown, who went to our house and faxed the legal documents required for me to make medical decisions for Lisa.
I never imagined as I paced that tiny waiting room that I would not see Lisaâ€™s bright blue eyes again or hold her warm, loving hands. Feeling helpless as I continued to wait, I attempted to sneak back into the trauma bay but all the doors to the trauma area had key codes, preventing me from entering. Sitting alone with our luggage, our children and my thoughts, I watched numbly as other families were invited back into the trauma center to visit with loved ones. I was still waiting to hear what was happening with Lisa, realizing as the time passed that I was not being allowed to see her and if the social workerâ€™s words were any indication it was because we were gay.
Anger, despair and disbelief wracked my brain as I tried to figure out a way to find out what was going on with Lisa. I finally thought to call our family doctor back in Olympia (on a Sunday afternoon at home) to see if she could find out what was happening. While on the phone with our doctor in Olympia, a surgeon appeared. The surgeon told me that Lisa, who was just 39 years old, had suffered massive bleeding in her brain from an aneurysm.
A short while later, two more surgeons appeared and explained the massive bleed in Lisaâ€™s brain gave her little chance to survive and if she did it would be in a persistent vegetative state. Lisa had made me promise to her over and over in our 18 years together to never allow this to happen to her. I let the surgeons know Lisa wishes, which were also spelled out in her Living Wills and Advance Directive. I was then promised by the doctors that I would be brought to see Lisa as “soon as she was cleaned up”. At that point all life saving measures ceased and I asked that she be prepared for organ donation.
Yet, the children and I continued to wait and wait. A Hospital Chaplain appeared and asked if I wanted to pray and I looked at her dumbfounded as if I hadnâ€™t already been doing that for over four hours. I immediately asked for a Catholic Priest to perform Lisa’s Last rites. A short time later, a Catholic priest escorted me back to recite the Last Rites and it was my first time in nearly 5hrs of seeing Lisa. After seeing her I knew the children needed to see her immediately and be able to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. Yet the priest escorted me back out to the waiting room. Where I was faced with the young faces of our beautiful children to explain â€œother mommyâ€ was going to heaven.
I continued to assert myself over the ensuing hours again that we needed to be with Lisa. I even showed the Admitting clerk the children’s birth certificates with both Lisa and my name on themâ€¦ and said if you won’t let me back, let her children be with her. I was told they were “too young”. I thought how old do you need to be to say goodbye to your mother?
In nearly eight hours, Lisa lay at Ryder Trauma Center moving toward brain death â€“ completely alone and I continue to this day to feel like a failure for not being there to hold her hand to tell her how much we loved her, to comfort her and to sign in her hand “I love you”. All my pleas fell on deaf ears.
Lisa’s sister arrived driving straight from Jacksonville as soon as I knew Lisa would not survive. She announced who she was and I was at her side staring at the same person who had been denying me access all those hours. It was only then that I was told Lisa had been moved almost an hour earlier to ICUâ€¦ and the hospital just kept the children and I waiting in the same waiting room, where Lisa was not even at.
On Monday February 19, 2007 at 10:45am, Lisa was officially declared Brain Dead. It was then that individuals from the Organ Donation Agency became involved (who I must point out are completely separate professionals from Jackson Memorial Hospital) that I finally was validated as Lisa’s spouse. They asked me which organs she wanted donated.
Explain to me again how a straight couple would have been split like this even for five minutes, let alone hours. Explain to me how three children would have been kept from their straight mother’s side, how a dying straight person would be treated in such an cruel, vicious, I-don’t-have-enough-words way.
Tell me again why the word “marriage” doesn’t matter. Tell me again that we should just be patient and not rock the boat.
Better yet, tell it to Lisa Pond’s partner and children.
Yesterday a judge shrugged his shoulders and left LGBT victims unprotected. When will Americans demand better? Will Americans demand better?