Sounds like a classic cluster:
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.”
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.
Several things — a full, gutwrenching account is here — are going on here: a lot of homophobia + no common sense + uncaring, insensitive nurses + a lack of policy on family presence during critical events = Appallingly Stupid and Wretched Care. And I guess the ultimate test would be: if they had been a common-law heterosexual couple, and her partner had been male, would she have been barred?
Sadly, probably not. While it’s pretty clear a social worker was initially responsible for forbidding the patient’s partner from seeing the patient, it’s also apparent the nurses on duty chose to hide behind policy, ignore simple human decency, and wash their hands of the whole business.
I’ve worked in trauma centres and even Acme Regional gets a good one now and again. I get the need for space to do your own thing without tending to family. I understand rapid intervention means decreased mortality. But even in the worst emergent cases, time is always found for family and loved ones. You would have to be a nurse with a colossal lack of empathy — I mean bordering on sociopathic — to deny family access to a patient who is dying.
When nurses gang up to enforce common societal prejudices, or even their own bigotry, at the expense of being patient advocates or doing what is ethically and morally right, it’s called dereliction of duty and professional misconduct. And it’s pathetic and wrong.