Posted on May 10, 2002

"Damaged Care" Premiere Features HMO Whistleblower


Linda Peeno MD (502) 548-7878
Steffie Woolhandler MD (617) 665-1032
Quentin Young MD (312) 782-6006

Screening on Capitol Hill to be followed by panel with Dr. Linda Peeno,
Former HMO physician who denied a heart transplant

Former Humana Medical Evaluator 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 health care reform.

A film based on the experiences of Dr. Peeno, called "Damaged Care" and including a scene showing her denying a patient's heart transplant, will have its world premiere on Capitol Hill on Friday, May 10. Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park") plays Dr. Peeno. 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."

In addition to Laura Dern, "Damaged Care" stars James LeGros, Adam Arkin, and Michelle Clunie, and features Regina King and Dianne Ladd. It will air on Showtime at 8 pm EST May 26 and May 29.

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 corporate-dominated health care system is sick," said Dr. Quentin Young, Past President of the American Public Health Association and National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. "It's time to end the experiment with market-driven health care and adopt a non-profit national health insurance program."

"The US health system is the most bureaucratic in the world, wasting over $150 billion annually on excessive paperwork," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard. "Meanwhile, 600,000 retired steelworkers just lost their health benefits and joined the ranks of the 40 million uninsured. There is more than enough money in our health system -- over $4,300 per person -- to provide quality health care for all if we exclude the corporate middleman and implement single payer national health insurance."

When the film "John Q" came out -- about a young man denied a heart transplant by his insurer -- many people said that "it couldn't happen in America." "Damaged Care" not only shows that it is possible, but that because of the conflict between patients and profits, that it is inevitable.


Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is an organization of over 9,000 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.

Rep. John Conyers is hosting the D.C. screening with Director Harry Winer.
Rep. Conyers will introduce legislation this spring calling for single payer national health insurance and excluding for-profit, investor-owned corporations in the delivery of health care.