California Teen Dies after Insurance Company Denies Liver Transplant
By Gerri Elder
Stories of patients being denied medical coverage by health insurance companies are hardly news. For a company whose profit margins are based on maximizing incoming insurance policy money while minimizing outgoing money in the form of payments on insurance claims by policy holders, withholding as much coverage and money as possible is integral to the business of any insurance company. Sadly, thousands of patients each year are denied varying levels of medical coverage by their insurance company. Injury lawyers may be able to help in some situations.
However, a recent denied coverage case in California rose to prominent attention in national media because of the convergence of many factors that showed the true colors of the insurance company involved.
17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan died from leukemia after her insurance company, Cigna Corp., refused to pay for a liver transplant. Sarkisyan's doctors pleaded with the insurance company to reconsider their decision, saying that patients in her condition would have a 60 percent chance of living for at least 6 months.
However, the procedure was controversial, with many medical experts claiming that the immune-system-suppressing medication that all patients are required to take in a transplantation procedure would be impossible for a leukemia patient to recover from.
The company's decision to refuse to pay for Sarkisyan's operation aroused a public outcry that brought around 150 nurses and others to march outside of the Cigna office in Glendale, California in protest. As the protestors marched, Cigna officials voted to reverse the decision.
However, their change of heart occurred too late. Sarkisyan died several hours later.
She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, according to news reports, after her liver failed. Sarkisyan had previously received a bone marrow transplant from her younger brother.
Now, Sarkisyan's family has hired a lawyer, Mark Geragos, in order to file a lawsuit against Cigna. According to the lawyer, the family intends to claim that Cigna "maliciously killed" Nataline because it refused to bear the costs of her operation and care afterward.
However, many believe that it would be tough to successfully prove murder and/or manslaughter charges against Cigna, especially because of the controversy surrounding the procedure in a leukemia patient and the strong possibility that it could not have helped Nataline in any case.