Hospital Denies Rights to Lesbian Couple with Pregnancy Complications

Multiple LGBT news sources have been reporting on a story from last Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal that Spring Valley Hospital in Clark County, Nevada, has denied a lesbian the right to make medical decisions for her pregnant domestic partner. When Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli went to the hospital in July after Leon began experiencing complications with her pregnancy, an admissions officer told them that Simonelli could not make medical decisions for Leon without a power of attorney—despite the fact that they are legal domestic partners in the state, which should give them the same rights as married couples to make medical decisions for each other. Leon ended up losing the pregnancy.

According to the Review-Journal, “the admission officer’s words left them devastated in a moment that they already were under extreme stress.” The hospital had no problem, however, accepting Simonelli’s insurance policy, under which Leon is covered.

On a contrasting note, remember Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida (part of the Jackson Health System (JHS)), which in 2007 denied Janice Langbehn and her children the right to see Lisa Pond, her partner and the children’s other mother, when Pond lay dying of a brain aneurysm? The incident precipitated a phone call to Langbehn from President Obama, and a memo from him to the Department of Health and Human Services to create a new regulation guaranteeing that patients could designate their visitors, including same-sex partners. Well, JHS yesterday posted quite a nice piece titled “Sexual Identity: What’s this all about?“ in its Mental Health Hospital Blog.

The piece is only one of a number of steps JHS has taken to improve its policies and training related to LGBT patients and their families since Pond’s death. In 2011, it was one of only 27 healthcare facilities in the U.S., and the only one in Florida, to be named a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a fact that JHS promotes on its homepage.

So: Clearly we still have a long way to go before we can rely on equal treatment from all hospitals, even when the law is on our side. But if one hospital can make changes, so can others. Over to you, Spring Valley.