Saturday, December 22, 2007

In the Case of Nataline Sarkisyan

My immediate reaction when first learning of this case, was one of outrage. How dare yet another bean-counting, uncaring, bottom-line thinking insurer, whose job it is to provide health coverage to paying policy-holders, how dare they allow a 17-year old child to die because of petty haggling over approval of a life-saving transplant procedure? How dare they? Particularly given the already tarnished image faced by most of the industry heavy-weights.

Yet, here we are, weighing in on yet another case that at first blush looks like the usual big-guy insurance-giant bullying the little-guy. But is it?
Here is the breakdown:
  • Nataline Sarkisyan, 17-year leukemia patient dies after being removed from life support following complications developed after a bone marrow transplant from her brother the day before Thanksgiving. The complications caused Nataline's liver to fail, placing her in a vegetative state.
  • Nataline's doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, appealed to the Sarkisyan's insurer, Cigna Corp., to reconsider an initial refusal of a liver transplant, which doctors said was crucial to her survival. Cigna initially refused to authorize the procedure, calling it experimental.
  • Cigna later rescinds the earlier decision, agreeing to the transplant in an 11th hour change of heart.
  • Nataline dies within an hour of being removed from life support.
Nataline's family has promptly filed suit against Cigna, retaining the legal services of Mark Geragos (remember him from the Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson trials?), who promptly blamed the insurer for Nataline's death. Geragos has asked the California District Attorney's office to press murder or manslaughter charges against Cigna, claiming, the insurer "maliciously killed" her because it didn't want to pay for her transplant and aftercare.

At issue is whether the procedure would indeed have saved her life. Doctors in the case stated the survival rate for patients in similar situations is six months at 65 percent. A complicated case.
Access the article here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Transplantation is not an option for leukemia patients because the immunosuppressant drugs "tend to increase the risk and growth of any tumors," said Dr. Stuart Knechtle, ...The procedure "would be futile," he said. "

It's hard to see a young girl die. But death still is the natural end to life and sometimes it strikes 17-year-olds. My heart goes out to her family.