Hospital Visitation Rights Advocate to Receive Presidential Citizens Medal

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on October 13 2011 9:05 AM ET

Janice Langbehn, whose family tragedy prompted an executive order to extend hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, will receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, at the White House next week for “her efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally.”

According to a statement from the White House, the Washington State resident is among 13 civilians selected to receive the award from President Barack Obama at a ceremony October 20. More than 6,000 names were suggested for the annual honor, which recognizes exemplary service to one’s fellow citizens.

While on vacation in Florida in 2007, Langbehn’s partner, Lisa Pond, was hospitalized and died alone of a brain aneurysm after her partner and children were refused access to her. Langbehn filed a lawsuit against the hospital, Jackson Memorial, but the case was dismissed in 2009. Her plight received attention from President Obama, who personally apologized for her experience and issued a memorandum to extend hospital visitation rights to members of gay and lesbian couples. The changes, which affect hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid, took effect this year.