The Miami Incident
In February 2007, Janice Langbehn, Lisa Pond, and their three jointly adopted children with special needs left home in Lacey, Washington, for Florida. The family was planning a cruise to celebrate the couple’s 18 years together. Just as they boarded the ship, the 39-year-old Pond suddenly collapsed and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, with Langbehn and children close behind. Hospital staff refused to accept information from Langbehn regarding Pond’s medical history, informing her that she was in an antigay city and state and that she could expect to receive no information or recognition as family. A physician finally spoke with Langbehn, telling her that there was no chance for Pond’s recovery (because of a massive stroke). Other than one five-minute visit (orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Langbehnn’s request to perform last rites), and despite the doctor’s acknowledgment that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Langbehn nor the three children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival, even after Pond’s power of attorney to Langbehn was faxed to the hospital. Soon after Pond's death, Langbehn attempted to obtain her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for the children. Both the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner denied her request.
A federal lawsuit against the hospital, doctors, and staff was dismissed. 661 F.Supp.2d 1326 (2009). The Court held that, although the defendants exhibited a lack of compassion and sensitivity, there was no relief available to plaintiff Langbehn and her children under Florida law.