Do American Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) deliberately neglect unprofitable patients? You may think so after reading the true story: Death By HMO: The Jennifer Gigliello Tragedy.A new world of medicine exists in the United States-one that pulsates to the impersonal and incessantly driving rhythms of corporate greed. Patients can become little more than data entries in elaborate schemes to cut costs and bolster profits. Jennifer Gigliello's case is, unfortunately, one tragic tip of the HMO iceberg.In April 1978, Jennifer Gigliello (a vivacious, energetic, and happily-married, 21-year-old new mother from San Francisco) was struck with a severe pain attack. For the following eight years her illness was repeatedly misdiagnosed and she had a series of unnecessary or botched operations, which left her chronically ill. This series of events ultimately resulted in her untimely death.
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There are those who praise HMOs for cutting medical costs, overlooking the presumption that HMOs are taking care of individual patients. Cancilla's as-told-to story about her daughter, Jennifer, alerts us to some major possible dangers of HMOs. She details the eight years of Jennifer's downward-spiraling health and treatment--or lack thereof--including six major operations (the most difficult was terribly botched by a nonspecialist surgeon) and many hospitalizations. The staff of Jennifer's Kaiser Foundation Health Plan hospital saved money by keeping an infected catheter in position and by forcing Jennifer to use home nutrition procedures without sufficient instruction and experienced support. They refused to believe her and family members' descriptions of her pains and problems, regarding her, ultimately, as a nuisance. Finally, the Kaiser staff made no attempt to clean up after Jennifer's violent death; her father's fatal heart attack two days later may in part have been triggered by seeing the gruesome aftermath. The family's suit and the ensuing trial clearly established that Kaiser was to blame for an inhuman series of events. William Beatty
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