On Wednesday, a federal court ruled to allow 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan from Newtown Square, Pa., and potentially other children, to be temporarily placed on the adult list for a lung transplant based on medical need.
Sarah has Cystic Fibrosis and is fighting for her life at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as she awaits a life-saving transplant. Absent this surgery, doctors believe she has only a few weeks to live. Her doctors are confident that they could perform a life-saving lung transplant with a portion of an adult lung. The rules for organ donations generally make medical need the primary criteria for receiving an organ. But these rules also limit eligibility for children younger than 12 by placing them at the bottom of the adult list. So Sarah Murnaghan was effectively shut out of the chance to get an adult lung transplant despite her urgent need and suitability. (Pediatric lungs rarely become available.)
Sarah’s family filed emergency legal action in federal court to prevent the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, from enforcing a policy that prevents children under 12 from getting the adult lung transplants they need to save their lives.
Judge Michael Baylson, senior federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted a temporary restraining order and told the Secretary of HHS to direct the transplant network to cease application of the “Under 12 Rule” as it applies to Sarah. Since then, Judge Baylson issued a temporary restraining order for another child in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in a similar situation. The organ transplant network will hold an emergency review meeting on Monday.
Finally, we have some positive news for Sarah and her family. I applaud the ruling and am grateful to Judge Baylson for quickly issuing his decision on such an important matter.
Now Sarah has a chance for a lung transplant. As I’ve said all along, Secretary Sebelius should use her authority to make medical need and suitability, rather than age, be the primary criteria in determining how organ donations are prioritized. I hope this court ruling will encourage her to make this important policy change.