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Northridge Teen Dies Because Health Insurance Would Not Pay

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Apparently, a liver transplant is "experimental."

17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan was fighting leukemia when a bone marrow transplant from her brother failed. Doctors at UCLA Medical Center told CIGNA Healthcare that she needed a liver transplant on December 11. CIGNA denied funding the operation, citing the procedure was experimental and outside the scope of coverage. In an e-mail statement before she died, the health care company said "there was a lack of medical evidence showing the procedure would work in Nataline's case." Though, "UCLA doctors said patients in situations similar to Nataline's who undergo transplants have a six-month survival rate of about 65 percent(CNN)."

CIGNA reversed their position on the matter yesterday, a couple hours before Sarkisyan died, after 150 protesters picketed outside the health insurer's Glendale headquarters.

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Attorney Mark Geragos is requesting the district attorney to press murder or manslaughter charges saying that they "maliciously killed her" so they wouldn't have to pay for the operation and after care. To that, the DA's office said they will not look into the matter until evidence is presented to them by Geragos.

"If Cigna could approve the transplant yesterday in response to hundreds of phone calls and people pounding on their door in Glendale," Charles Idelson, spokesman for the Oakland-based California Nurses Assns., told the LA Times, "why couldn't they have done it eight days earlier?"

Photo by Bethany L King via Flickr