By Margarita Snegireva. Cigna Corp. faced a lawsuit on Friday from the family of a 17-year-old girl who died of leukemia after the insurance company refused to pay for liver transplant.
The Philadelphia-based insurer had initially refused to pay for the procedure, saying it was experimental. The company reversed the decision Thursday as about 150 nurses and community members rallied outside of its office in Glendale , a suburb of Los Angeles . Nataline Sarkisyan died just hours later.
"They took my daughter away from me," said Nataline Sarkisyan's father, Krikor, with tears in his eyes at a news conference at his lawyer's office.
Attorney Mark Geragos said the family plans to sue the company. He did not say when or where he would file the lawsuit.
Geragos also said he would ask the district attorney's office to press murder or manslaughter charges against Cigna, an allegation that one legal expert described as difficult to prove and "a little bit of grandstanding."
A district attorney's office spokeswoman declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to do so until Geragos submits evidence supporting his request.
The family's "loss is immeasurable, and our thoughts and prayers are with them," Cigna said in a news release Friday. "We deeply hope that the outpouring of concern, care and love that are being expressed for Nataline's family help them at this time."
Sarkisyan was diagnosed with leukemia at 14 and received a bone marrow transplant from her brother the day before Thanksgiving. She later developed a complication that caused her liver to fail.
She was in a vegetative state for some time, her mother, Hilda, said.
Sarkisyan was taken off life support at the UCLA Medical Center on Thursday, her mother said. She died within the hour.
In a Dec. 11 letter to Cigna, four doctors had appealed to the insurer to reconsider. They said patients in similar situations who undergo transplants have a six-month survival rate of about 65 percent.
One of Sarkisyan's doctors, Robert Venick, declined to comment on her case. UCLA Medical Center refused to make her other doctors available for comment.
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