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Miami’s Jackson Health System Amends Policies to Ensure Equal Visitation Access

Many of us remember the tragic story of Janice Langbehn being denied visitation access for her dying partner, Lisa Pond, in 2007 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. Lisa suffered a fatal brain aneurysm right before she, Janice and their three children were to depart on a family vacation. Despite having their advanced healthcare directives faxed to the hospital, hospital staff would not let Janice visit Lisa until a priest arrived and accompanied her for administering last rites. Announced this week - a little over three years after Lisa Pond’s death - Jackson Health System has completed a collaborative effort to review and update their LGBT policies and practices to prevent a repeat of this sad incident. This effort, lead by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Lambda Legal, formally began in May 2009 and brought together local, state and national LGBT organizations to work with Jackson Health System. The health system amended many policies including:

  • Updating their non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression;
  • Implementing a patient's bill of rights that demonstrates the hospital's commitment to providing quality care for LGBT patients;
  • Enhancing their visitation policy to include explicitly LGBT-inclusive language.

HEI_cover_09As part of this effort, in late 2009 Jackson Health System also completed the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index survey, an annual survey of healthcare facilities’ LGBT-related policies and practices. The HEI focuses on the policies mentioned above in addition to equal employment opportunity policies and LGBT cultural competency training for staff, rating participants on 7 key policy criteria. Perhaps most important to Janice Langbehn and her family are the updates made to Jackson Health System’s visitation policy, which is now explicitly inclusive of LGBT families. This is one of the main criteria rated in the HEI and in 2009 we released a resource paper on visitation and decision-making policies to provide guidance and model policy language to healthcare facilities, like Jackson Health System, looking to improve around these issues. The policy updates completed by Jackson Health System are steps all healthcare facilities should take to ensure LGBT patients and their families are welcome and given the best, most competent care possible. We are now in the process of analyzing our HEI 2010 survey results (to be released in the HEI report come June) and they show several leading healthcare facilities are doing so. Check out press releases from Jackson Health System [PDF], Lambda Legal, and Equality Florida related to this week’s announcement. We join the many LGBT organizations and individual activists who worked on the ground in Miami, Florida in commending Jackson Health System on this work. And congratulations to the members of the Committee for Fair Visitation, especially GLMA and Lambda Legal, for their leadership in this effort!

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