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Nurses apologize to woman who couldn't visit dying partner

'I can't imagine what you went through,' one tells Janice Langbehn, who was kept from seeing Lisa Pond on her deathbed at a Miami hospital in 2007.

November 22, 2009|Mcclatchy Newspapers

Miami — Several nurses at Jackson Memorial Hospital have personally apologized to Janice Langbehn, a lesbian from Washington state who said that a Jackson social worker wouldn't allow her to be with her dying partner in 2007.

"We certainly are sorry for the pain and suffering she felt," said Martha Baker, a registered nurse and president of Service Employees International Union Local 1991, the union representing about 5,000 healthcare professionals at Jackson, which is in Miami.

"I apologize," said registered nurse Norberto Molina, chairman of the union's gay Lavender Caucus. "I can't imagine what you went through."

The apologies came at a town-hall-style meeting Thursday at Unity on the Bay church, where Langbehn returned to Miami as a speaker.

Baker, Molina and two other Jackson nurses, Jim Nicholson and Diane Poirier, along with 60 other people, attended the meeting.

Langbehn, whose lawsuit against Jackson was dismissed in September by a federal court in Miami, welcomed the nurses' gesture. But she still wants the hospital to apologize formally.

"The management has to do it," Langbehn said.

She tearfully told the audience of her final moments with longtime partner Lisa Pond, who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm on Feb. 18, 2007, shortly before they were to sail with their three children on a Caribbean cruise.

At Jackson, Langbehn said, a social worker would not let her visit Pond because Florida is "an anti-gay state." Pond, 39, died the next day.

Langbehn, with Lambda Legal's help, sued the hospital. The case was dismissed without a decision on whether Jackson discriminated against Langbehn because she is gay. The court determined that the hospital had no legal obligation to allow anyone to visit a patient.

"It's my duty to speak out, that this should never happen to another family of ours," said Langbehn; seated with her attorney, Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal in Atlanta; Stratton Pollitzer of Equality Florida and Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who specializes in nontraditional-family issues.

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