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Nataline Sarkisyan Dies After CIGNA Denies Liver Transplant

Because of my friend Bethani Roam’s recent struggle with liver failure, a subsequent liver transplant, and then an on-going battle with the threat of rejection, the story of Nataline Sarkisyan is one I find touching. It has raised distinct and unavoidable questions this evening.

It is a heart-breaking story. Nataline died last night at UCLA Medical center, the result of leukemia and subsequent liver failure…and some would say, the result of her health insurance company refusing to approve a liver transplant. On December 11, her doctors contacted CIGNA for authorization, which the company refused to issue. On Thursday, around 150 people, including her family and nurses protested outside CIGNA’s offices in Glendale, CA. The uproar prompted CIGNA to reverse its decision, and during the protest, a messenger came with the word of the insurer’s change of mind.

The victory cheers were short-lived. Within hours, Nataline died. The authorization for the liver transplant had come too late.

Now according to the Associated Press:

Attorney Mark Geragos 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 said.

Is something wrong with our medical situation here in America? Should insurance companies have more say over the treatment of a patient than does the doctor? This does not seem right to me, and I grieve for this family. At the same time, I don’t perceive CIGNA as an evil entity, with no heart, and set on merely accumulating money. Perhaps I am naive.

Do you have thoughts about medical care in America? I believe it to be the best in the world, but when I hear of cases such as these, it brings me up short, and I must pause to consider their ramifications. For it could be me…could be my child…or another of my loved ones. What is the solution?

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