Lesbian Claims Hospital Refused To Let Her See Partner


A hospital has been forced to apologize for what it is calling a communication failure after a woman alleged staff denied the right to see her same-sex partner.

Linda Cole, of Tahoma Park, Maryland, filed a complaint with the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying that staff at the front desk of Washington Adventists Hospital denied her the right to see her same-sex partner who was in the emergency room after having suffered a seizure.

From The Washington Post:

The Maryland incident took place Nov. 13. Kathryn Wilderotter, 37, said she had an epileptic seizure, crashed her car and was taken to the hospital in Takoma Park, which considers itself to be among the country’s most progressive communities.

Wilderotter’s legal spouse and partner of 11 years, Linda Cole, arrived at the hospital and identified herself as Wilderotter’s partner but wasn’t recognized as family.

“Nobody would let her back,” Wilderotter said.

Cole wasn’t allowed to visit until Wilderotter’s sister arrived, Wilderotter said.

The hospital issued a statement Thursday apologizing for a lack of communication during the incident, saying, “We are deeply sorry for Ms. Cole feeling anything less than valued at Washington Adventist Hospital,” and that the hospital would review its patient rights training to make sure “it adequately addresses this issue.” However, while blaming one new staff member for this so-called communication error, the hospital’s president has also reportedly said that she believes staff did nothing wrong.

From 9 News Now:

But, Joyce Newmyer, the hospital president of Washington Adventist tells Nine News they didn’t do anything wrong.

“The care team is assessing and treating the patient and they need space and the time to do that before anyone accompanying the patient is allowed back in the emergency department. That we did not communicate that well, I’m very sorry for,” says Newmyer.

Newmeyer has gone on to tell NBC the same, saying that the hospital, “as a matter of both policy and practice,” treats people who walk through its doors the same “regardless of their faith, tradition, their ethnicity, or their sexual orientation.”

There seems two different versions of events here, with Cole and her partner alleging a prolonged period of separation that only ended once her partner’s sister arrived, and the hospital president saying that the duration was simply until “assessing and treating” the patient in the emergency department was complete.

Until a thorough investigation has been carried out it would be improper to speculate as to which version is more accurate, however this is one in a long line of incidents from across the country.

One case from late last year saw the chief executive officer of Rolling Hills Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, forced to apologize after a “human error” led to a woman being denied visitation rights to see her same-sex partner.

In fact, incidents like these prompted the Obama administration to issue guidelines last year on federal anti-discrimination rules, making it explicit that for hospitals running Medicare and Medicaid it is a violation to deny access to a same-sex spouse or partner, and that such a denial of rights can cost the hospital its federal funding.

Have concerns about which hospitals have a good record on treating same-sex partners fairly? Every year the HRC compiles the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey of healthcare policies and practices of interest to LGBT patients and their families. While the HEI is not a perfect guide — few are — it can help LGBT patients find quality healthcare with the peace of mind that they will not have to also face the added burden of prejudice and discrimination. Read more about the Healthcare Equality Index here.

Related Reading:

HHS Plans to Collect LGBT Health Data

HHS: DOMA Not an Excuse for Denial of Equality in LGBT Elder Medicaid Care

Young Gay Men in Serious Relationships Need to Practice Safe Sex Too

Photo used under the MorgueFile user license, with thanks to Clarita.


Stefanie D.
Stefanie D.6 years ago

this is outrageous... there is no family closer than a spouse or significant other (partner)... seriously
many hospitals disallow parents, siblings, children (sons/daugthers), aunties/uncles, grandparents, nieces/nephews, and cousins... but should NEVER disallow spouses/SOs/partners... this is crazy...

Charles R.
Charles Rae6 years ago

All partners are equal, but clearly some are more equal than others...

Madeline B.
Madeline B6 years ago

discrimination here and it sucks. The hospital needs to change their policy.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

Why should the hospital apologize for "wrong doing", if they didn't do anything wrong? They did what their policy dictates they do..........family only in exam rooms unless the patient authorizes, and in this case, the patient didn't authorize, she was unconscious.

Geynet,think about what IF you were in an exam room.......you'd been brought in via ambulance. The I.D. in your purse says your last name is Jones, and no emergency contact is listed. No "next of kin" mentioned. Okay, so Laurie Smith shows up and says she's your "spouse". What if it was just some nosey neighbor or even somebody who might have caused your injuries? How would the hospital know? In this case, they were told by the sister upon her arrival, as to WHO the partner was. There wasn't wrong-doing, just a break down in communication, and seems the patient and the partner both should have carried more I.D. to have prevented that from happening.

Geynell Eskite
Geynell Eskite6 years ago

I'm so sorry that this couple had to go through this. Keeping loved ones apart during a time of crisis is just plain cruel. If a man came in and claimed to be her spouse I bet he would have been ushered right back. What is the point of this "family only" policy anyway? It seems to cause more problems than it prevents. And if this woman was told that she could not go back because she was not "family", then the "stabilizing the patient" excuse doesn't fly.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D6 years ago

So the hospital apologises but denies doing anything wrong?

Brit Valdes-pages

This really makes me mad. I really hope that someday things in our society will change.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

Winn A., where was anyone "harrassed"? What did I miss here? As I read it, the partner was just not allowed into the exam room with the patient until the patient's sister arrived and explained their relationship.

The more I read here, the more I'm convinced that people are making way too much out of a simple situation and that it's been taken WAY out of context. I'm sure if the patient had been conscious when admitted, this wouldn't have even been an issue, OR if it was visiting hours, no problem. Hospitals can't let just anyone into an exam room. How were they to know?

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

The people at this hospital need to wake up and stop harassing partners of gay people in their hospital. How stupid are they?

James Campbell
James Campbell6 years ago

Marilyn L. “My partners stayed with me in the ER the whole time test were taken and they were trying to figure out what was wrong. She went up to surgery with me and stay with me until I went into the operating room”

Perfect … just as it should be! This is the situation I am most familiar with (I am a doctor), but from a UK perspective and I cannot understand what this particular hospital was doing. Of course, we are not aware of all the details, but what has been available on the web points to discrimination and a hospital admin. attempting to justify that which is unjustifiable.