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(***CIGNA response added below on 12/23***)How unfortunate it is that it takes the death of such a young individual, Nataline Sarkisyan, to get people to pull their heads out of the sand and realize how unfair and unjust the health care system is in the United States. We get Los Angeles television stations in my area and it goes without saying that this local, heartbreaking story has been topping all our newscasts. As horrible as it sounds to say, I am glad to see that this case and its dire results due to CIGNA’s horrific money-grubbing choices, is also getting the national (and international) attention it needs in order to garner action by those fed up with the constant stream of people dying much sooner than they need to–all in the name of insurance companies making a profit.

I blogged about Nataline’s passing shortly after hearing the news (including informational links and a video by her brother), but so much more information and responses are coming out, so I thought I’d create this blog entry to list them. I’m including in the California Nurses Association section below, a video they put together focusing on the fight on Nataline’s behalf on the day she died. The first video posted here is a CNN report. I’ll add more links and videos as I run across them.

Too late for transplant“-CNN

California Nurses Association (CNA) web site:

Real People DENIED Real Healthcare: Nataline Sarkisyan

CIGNA 12/21/07 statement-Press-Telegram

“Our deepest sympathies are with Nataline’s family. Their loss is immeasurable, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

“We deeply hope that the outpouring of concern, care and love that are being expressed for Nataline’s family help them at this time.”

What you “deeply hope” CIGNA, is that your callous disregard for human life exhibited in this case, and most assuredly countless others, does not come back to bite you in the ass. I, on the other hand, hope it most certainly does! Please allow me to take the first bite, on behalf of Nataline and all the others you have sent to an early grave.

Michael Moore web site:

December 22nd, 2007 4:19 pm

“Today I call upon the Los Angeles district attorney to investigate and consider bringing criminal homicide charges against CIGNA Health Care for their role in the death of Nataline Sarkisyan. If their decision was one of incompetence, then manslaughter charges should be filed. If it was a premeditated decision — where CIGNA knew in advance that Nataline would most likely die — then their corporate officers should be arrested and the full extent of the law brought to bear upon them.

“This is one more example why we not only need universal health care for all our citizens, but also to eliminate the concept of private, profit-driven ‘health care.’ Nearly every candidate running for president has a plan that leaves companies like CIGNA in charge. This must not happen and I call upon the democratic frontrunners to show some spine and say so.”

UCLA health care web site (Nataline had been a patient at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA) :

Everyone at UCLA Medical Center — the administration, physicians and staff — are profoundly saddened by the death of Nataline Sarkisyan, as we are by the death of any child in our care. Our hearts go out to the Sarkisyan family and to everyone touched by her life.

“In a Dec. 11 letter to Cigna, four doctors had appealed to the insurer to reconsider. They said patients in similar situations who undergo transplants have a six-month survival rate of about 65 percent.

The letter sent by the UCLA doctors questioned the company’s explanation that it does not cover experimental or unproven treatments, saying Nataline’s case was neither.

One of Nataline’s doctors, Robert Venick, declined to comment on her case. UCLA Medical Center staff refused to make her other doctors available for comment.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

***ADDED 12/24/07***

CIGNA defends actions over denial of transplant-CBS2.com

In a memo sent to Cigna employees today, Cigna President David Cordani and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Kang said the company consulted its own experts who doubted the effectiveness of the procedure.

“In this case, rather than going through our standard method of appeal, we went directly to not one, but two independent experts in the field who agreed that the procedure in question, given the patient’s particular circumstances, would not have been an effective or appropriate treatment,” the pair wrote in the memo.

I’m disgusted, saddened, frustrated, and heartbroken for the family and friends of 17-year-old, Northridge, CA resident, Nataline Sarkisyan. After what had to be the very definition of the ultimate emotional roller coaster day, tonight (12/20/07) family and friends of Nataline are grieving her passing. Earlier the same day, family, friends, and members of the California Nurses Association protested in front of CIGNA‘s Glendale offices. About ten minutes into the protest, while Nataline’s mother was speaking, she was notified that CIGNA was making an “exception” and reversing their refusal to allow Nataline the liver transplant doctors said she desperately needed; with a liver transplant (a donor had been found when Nataline was in better shape) her chances of survival were 65%, without it she had NO chance of survival. Sadly Nataline’s condition worsened that same evening and she died.

I am so sick of hearing about innocent people who have been faced with the misfortune of ill health and disease, DYING because bean-counters and pencil-pushers make life and death decisions that should ONLY be made by doctors! When, oh when, are people going to become fed up with hearing painful stories such as this one, and FINALLY take action to FORCE our government, our politicians, and the health care community to change things?! It can be done, folks, and if you don’t believe me I IMPLORE YOU to watch Michael Moore’s SiCKO, especially the bonus features which show how Oslo, Norway has done it. France has health care for it’s citizens, England has done it, why in the ever loving HELL isn’t the country which is supposedly the leader of the free world, able to do it for THEIR OWN CITIZENS?! Oh wait, we know the answer to that and yes you can hear the same sounds I hear right now: ka-ching, ka-ching. It’s all about the almighty dollar, people, all about the money.

Sorry if this post might not be very focused, but when I heard the news Thursday night that Nataline had passed I just had to come here to let the emotions I’m feeling somehow pour themselves out via my keyboard. To have witnessed on television Nataline’s family being told that CIGNA was going to allow the transplant, right in the middle of the protest, then to be truly shocked to have the news come on hours later to report that Nataline had passed…well, it’s just something that’s made me pretty emotional. I have to note that as I flipped channels to catch the story on the various Los Angeles stations, I can honestly say that this is one of the few times where you could tell that each and every reporter was obviously personally affected by the heartbreaking news they were sharing with the viewers.

Please, please, PLEASE do whatever you can to help change our unfair and broken health care system, my friends. No more people should be denied access to life-saving health care just so the HMOs can continue to make money hand over fist.

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***Added***

  • I just found this video made by Nataline’s brother (who had recently donated bone marrow to her) which was posted on December 18th, 2007, two days prior to her death. What an obviously devoted brother she had!

Cigna Health Denies My 17 yr old sister’s Insurance Claim

For Immediate Release
December 21, 2007

RN’s Statement on Death of Nataline Sarkisyan: ‘CIGNA Should Have Listened to Her Doctors And Approved the Transplant a Week Ago’

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee today blasted insurance giant CIGNA for failing to approve a liver transplant one week earlier for 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, who tragically died last night just hours after CIGNA relented and agreed to the procedure following a massive national outcry.

On Dec. 11, four leading physicians, including the surgical director of the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at UCLA, wrote to CIGNA urging the company to reverse its denial. The physicians said that Nataline “currently meets criteria to be listed as Status 1A” for a transplant. They also challenged CIGNA’s denial which the company said occurred because their benefit plan “does not cover experimental, investigational and unproven services,” to which the doctors replied, “Nataline’s case is in fact none of the above.”

“So what happened between December 11, when CIGNA denied the transplant, and December 20 when they approved? A huge outpouring of protest and CIGNA’s public humiliation. Why didn’t they just listen to the medical professionals at the bedside in the first place?” asked Geri Jenkins, RN, a member of the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents who works in a transplant unit at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.

On Thursday, CIGNA was bombarded with phone calls to its offices across the country while a rally sponsored by CNA/NNOC, with the substantial help of the local Armenian community, drew 150 people to the Glendale offices of CIGNA – all of which produced the turnaround by CIGNA to finally reverse its prior denial of care.

CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro called the final outcome “a horrific tragedy that demonstrates what is so fundamentally wrong with our health care system today. Insurance companies have a stranglehold on our health. Their first priority is to make profits for their shareholders – and the way they do that is by denying care.”

“It is simply not possible to organize major protests every time a multi-billion corporation like CIGNA denies care that has been recommended by a physician,” DeMoro said. “Having insurance is not the same as receiving needed care. We need a fundamental change in our healthcare system that takes control away from the insurance giants and places it where it belongs – in the hands of the medical professionals, the patients, and their families.”

 

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