Jackson Memorial Hospital, the US News & World Report “best hospital” facility that prohibited Janice Langbehn (pictured) from seeing her dying partner of 17 years Lisa Pond, and won in court the right to ban any hospital visitor, has updated its visitation policies. They’re better, but not perfect.
After a year of reviewing JHS policies, the LGBT coalition [of Lambda Legal and other groups] recommended several policy changes that the hospital adopted. The hospital developed and implemented a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a patient’s bill of rights that demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to providing quality care for LGBT patients, and 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. JHS does not have a complete grievance procedure to ensure compliance with the policy in cases of emergency.
Indeed, as we understand it, same-sex partners now have visitation rights akin to heterosexual partners — a remarkable step for the nation’s third largest hospital. Moreover, there will be new training programs to educate staff about LGBT families and their needs. The hospital’s new definition of “Family or Family Member” reads (PDF):
The terms “family” or “family member” in all policies at the Jackson Health System are understood and interpreted to include any person(s) who plays a significant role in an individual’s socio-emotional life. This may include a person(s) not legally related to the individual. Members of “family” may include spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others. “Family” may include a minor patient’s parents, regardless of the gender of either parent. Solely for purposes of visitation policy, the concept of parenthood is to be liberally construed without limitation as encompassing biological parents, legal parents, foster parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, those serving in loco parentis, and other persons operating in caretaker roles, consistent with applicable law.
As for an apology? Langbehn and her children will have to suffice with just the employees, but not administrators, saying they’re sorry.