Monday, December 24, 2007

CIGNA "Insures" Their Subscribers Die!


A Northridge, California teenager awaiting a liver transplant died Thursday after she was pulled off of life support. Nataline Sarkisian died at about 6 p.m. at University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks and was being kept alive by life support machines according to her mother, Hilda. "She passed away, and the CIGNA insurance company is responsible for this," she said. "They took my daughter away from me," said Nataline's father, Krikor, who appeared at a news conference Friday with his 21-year-old son, Bedros. Mark Geragos, a California attorney best known for defending Scott Peterson, said he plans to ask the district attorney to press murder or manslaughter charges against CIGNA HealthCare in the case. The insurer "maliciously killed her" because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare, Geragos announced at a press conference on Friday.

liver transplant

Nataline had been battling leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from her brother. She developed a complication, however, that caused her liver to fail. Doctors at UCLA determined she needed a transplant and sent a letter to CIGNA Healthcare on December 11. The Philadelphia-based health insurance company denied payment for the transplant. On Thursday, about 150 teenagers and nurses protested outside CIGNA's office in Glendale. As the protesters rallied, the company reversed its decision and said it would approve the transplant after all. Despite the reversal, CIGNA said in an e-mail statement before she died that there was a lack of medical evidence showing the procedure would work in Nataline's case. "Our hearts go out to Nataline and her family, as they endure this terrible ordeal," the company said. " ... CIGNA HealthCare has decided to make an exception in this rare and unusual case and we will provide coverage should she proceed with the requested liver transplant."


CIGNA's collective hearts go out to the deceased 17 year old girl and her grieving family? Every time I hear that phrase nowadays, it makes me want to pull the heart out of the chest of whomever is saying it. That expression, along with people claiming they need closure and constantly apologizing to you, is so meaningless and self serving. Let's be completely honest, CIGNA didn't reject authorization for this potentially life saving operation with the best interests of the patient in mind. They did it to save a boatload of company money. What criteria after all do you think generates end of year bonuses? Does anyone believe for one second that if the child in question was the 17 year old daughter of CIGNA'S CEO or other highly placed board members, this liver transplant would have been rejected? Health insurance companies are no different then computer or roof repair companies; they're in business to make money. I don't get the feeling that the doctors and administrators who call the shots at insurance companies look as hard for ways to save lives as they do to save money.


I don't, however, think CIGNA should take all the blame in this instance. Doctors at UCLA compassionately insisted this dying young girl needed a liver transplant to survive. Where was that same compassion and insistence, I wonder, when CIGNA initially rejected the claim? I'm not so naive that I don't fully understand that insurance companies and hospitals, much like computer repairers and roofers, are in business primarily, if not solely, to make money. The one minor difference, however, is that people don't generally die if their computer is infected with a worm or if their roof leaks. That same statement can't be uttered when a 17 year old leukemia patient's very life depends on receiving a new liver to give her the possibility of reaching her 18th birthday and beyond.


Could UCLA not afford to perform the potential life saving operation? Could they not have resubmitted medical data to CIGNA explaining why this procedure could very well work? Could they not have proved their theory by accompanying this girl to CIGNA headquarters and stuck their collective tongues out and say, "see?" Why do so many in this country oppose Universal Health Care while supporting the war in Iraq? Is taking a life so much more appealing than saving one? Most people generally in life get what they deserve. This, however, was clearly not the case for 17 year old Nataline Sarkisian. This young girl had earlier contracted leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, and as a result suffered irreversible live damage requiring a transplant. It's Christmas tomorrow. I'm sure the majority of CIGNA executives and UCLA Hospital administrators will be exchanging gifts with loved ones while stuffing their fat faces. The Sarkisian family won't be sharing your joy, however. They will be in mourning for the loss of their beloved, Nataline. Obviously nobody knows definitively if this liver transplant would have saved her life. By the same token, nobody knows it wouldn't have either. I hope insurance company and hospital decision makers will think of this dead 17 year old and wonder what could have been had they simple tried. I wonder what the guy whose birth you're celebrating on the 25th would have done? Ahhhh, don't worry about it. Just stuff some more ham in your face and have yourself a very Merry Christmas............

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