President Obama called Janice Langbehn
– the inspiration behind his hospital memo – on Thursday while
attending a Democratic fundraiser in Miami, Florida, the Miami
Langbehn's story of being blocked by
hospital officials from seeing her dying partner, Lisa Pond, moved
the president to sign a directive ordering the Department of Health
and Human Services to establish new rules that would prevent
hospitals from denying visitation rights to the partners of gay men
Obama made the call from Air Force One
during his return trip to Washington, D.C.
“Of course you can guess that I am
blown away that the White House was watching our story and would act
on it,” Langbehn wrote to the paper. “This is Lisa's legacy
right here – no one should die alone – no matter who they love.”
Both Langbehn and the couple's children
were barred by Jackson Memorial Hospital from being by Pond's side as
she slipped into a coma and died in 2007. Officials dismissed the
couple's advanced healthcare directive.
Langbehn challenged the hospital's
policy, but a federal court ruled against her last September.
Obama said he was outraged by
The president's memo prohibits
hospitals that accept federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid, the
government's elderly and poor health care programs, from
discriminating on the basis of a variety of characteristics,
including sexual orientation and gender identity, and requires
hospitals to honor patients' wishes of who can make medical decisions
on their behalf.
Gay rights groups called the memo a
small but significant contribution towards equality in the absence of
the legal right to marry in most jurisdictions.
Last week, Jackson Memorial announced
it was changing its long-standing policy that banned gay partners
from visiting their loved ones.