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RN's Statement on Death of Nataline Sarkisyan: 'CIGNA Should Have Listened to her Doctors and Approved the Transplant a Week Ago'

GLENDALE, Calif., Dec. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 19 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."

SOURCE California Nurses Association
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