Tragedy at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Led to Policy Change
MIAMI – Today, new federal regulations go into effect that require virtually every hospital in the nation to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors.
The change in regulations came about as a direct result of a tragedy that occurred right here in Florida. Janice Langbehn, Lisa Pond and their children were in Miami for an R Family Vacations cruise when Lisa suffered a severe stroke. Janice and the couple’s legally adopted children were denied visitation for more than eight hours while Lisa lay dying.
Equality Florida helped lead a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations to successfully change policies at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. The year-long effort resulted in Jackson Memorial implementing one of the most pro-LGBT non-discrimination policies in the nation, including a visitation policy that updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient.
“Janice has shown great courage and tenacity by turning her tragedy into a successful effort to ensure LGBT families are respected in virtually every hospital in the nation,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director for Equality Florida. "A trip to the hospital is often one of the most frightening and anxious moments a family will ever face. These new regulations ensure that our closest family members can be at our side when we need them most."
Once made aware of Janice’s experience, President Obama reached out to Janice and assured her that he would take action. In April of last year, the President issued a memorandum directing the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations protecting a hospital patient’s visitation rights.
Protecting LGBT families when they are most vulnerable has long been a part of Equality Florida’s work. Brian Winfield, communications director for Equality Florida, serves as Diversity Advisory Board Chair for Moffitt Cancer Center, helping ensure LGBT Floridians have equal access to healthcare provided in a welcoming, non-discriminatory environment.
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.