WESTWOOD (KTLA)–Attorney Mark Geragos says he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a 17-year-old girl who died just hours after her health insurer agreed to pay for a liver transplant.
The parents of Nataline Sarkisyan removed her from life support Thursday.
"Now we have to start the healing process to try to figure out what happened and why it happened," said a friend of the family.
Nataline had been in a vegetative state for three weeks, her mother Hilda Sarkisyan told the Daily News.
CIGNA initially declined to pay for the transplant for Nataline because her plan did not cover "experimental, investigational and unproven services," her doctors said.
The denial prompted a rally by Armenia’s outside CIGNA’s Glendale offices attended by a crowd estimated by organizers at 150. Hundreds of telephone callers also clogged lines at CIGNA offices around the nation today on Nataline’s behalf, organizers said.
About 15 minutes into the rally, it was announced that CIGNA would make an exception to its rules and approve the transplant.
"This is an incredible turnaround generated by a massive outpouring around the country that proves that an engaged public can make a difference and achieve results," Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee, one of the rally’s organizers, said before Nataline’s death.
"CIGNA had to back down in the face of a mobilized network of patient advocates and health care activists who would not take no for an answer."
The Armenian National Committee and Eve Gittleson, a blogger on the Web site Daily Kos, also help organize the protests.
Nataline was diagnosed with leukemia at age 14. After two years of treatment the cancer went into remission but came back this summer, Sarkisyan told the Daily News.
When doctors said Nataline could use a bone-marrow transplant, the Sarkisyans discovered that her only sibling, Bedig, 21, was a match, and he donated his bone marrow the day before Thanksgiving, the newspaper reported.
However, Nataline developed a complication from the bone-marrow transplant and because her liver was failing, doctors recommended a transplant, according to an appeal letter sent to CIGNA earlier this month, the Daily News reported.
The Sarkisyans filed an appeal with the California Department of Insurance, which sent a letter this week saying it needed more information.