Posted on February 21, 2002

Humana Medical Reviewer Admits to Denying Heart Transplant


Linda Peeno MD (502) 895-9761
Joanne Landy (212) 666-4001
Don McCanne MD (949) 493-3714

Showtime contacts:
Michele Morris (310) 234-5222
Joan Ziff (212) 808-1590

Humana Medical Reviewer Admits to Denying Heart Transplant
Second “John Q” Movie – Starring Laura Dern – Coming out in May

Louisville – Former Humana Medical Reviewer Dr. Linda Peeno was so disturbed by what she experienced working for the giant HMO – including denying a young patient’s heart transplant – that she went into medical ethics and is now a vocal advocate for a national health insurance program.

A movie based on Dr. Peeno’s experiences, called “Damaged Care” and including a scene showing her denying a patient’s heart transplant, is coming out on Showtime in May. Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”) plays Dr. Peeno. Dern also co-produced the film. Dr. Peeno testified before Congress in May of 1996 about her heart transplant case and has been outspoken about the right to health care ever since.

“As a physician working for Humana, I denied a young man a heart transplant that would have saved his life, and thus caused his death,” testified Dr. Peeno. “No person or group has held me accountable for this, because, in fact, what I did was I saved a company a half a million dollars.”

“Humana’s only concern was costs,” says Dr. Peeno. “The young man fit all the criteria, a donor had been found, his doctor was ready to do the operation. Meanwhile, behind the scenes Humana employees scrambled to find a loophole in the patient’s contract. When they did, I was the one who had to tell the surgeon that the operation would not be covered.”

“The doctor asked me if I knew that the patient would likely die of his condition without the surgery, and I said I knew.” says Dr. Peeno. “When I hung up the phone my colleagues at Humana were thrilled, even joyful. I was sickened.”

The movie “Damaged Care” stars, in addition to Laura Dern, James LeGros, Adam Arkin, and Michelle Clunie, and features Regina King and Dianne Ladd. It is being distributed by Paramount Network Television. It was directed by Harry Winer.

Dr. Peeno recalls that shortly after denying the patient their heart transplant, a gigantic piece of sculpture was purchased for Humana’s headquarters – costing about the same amount as the heart transplant she had denied.

“When HMO’s came on the scene, we were told that they would eliminate only the “inappropriate care” and they would reduce costs so everyone could have insurance. Exactly the opposite has happened. They deny and delay needed care with sophisticated techniques, consume enormous resources for overhead costs and profits, and health care costs are rising dramatically.”

“Our health care funding system is sick,” says Dr. Don McCanne, a retired family physician and President of Physicians for a National Health Program. “If people only understood that we are already paying enough to provide comprehensive coverage for everyone – including heart transplants – if we only cut out the insurance middlemen and adopted a national health insurance program.”

The New York Chapter of PNHP leafleted outside a movie theater at the premier of John Q in New York City. “Everyone we spoke to agreed that we need health care reform,” says Joanne Landy, Executive Director of NYC-PNHP. “The public is overwhelmingly in favor of getting rid of the HMO’s and adopting a national health program.”


Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is an organization of over 10,000 physicians that supports a single payer national health insurance program. PNHP is based in Chicago with chapters across the US. For local contact information, call (312) 782-6006.

Dr. Linda Peeno is a family physician, medical ethicist and medical-legal consultant in Kentucky. She was the recipient of the 2001 “Dr. Quentin Young Health Activist Award”.