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HHS Secretary Calls For Review Of Child Organ Transplant Rules

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 9:39am
Sydney Lupkin and Alexis Shaw

Health and Human Services' Secretary Katheen Sebelius has called for a review of policies affecting children awaiting lung transplants, as the parents of a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl fight for their daughter to be granted the care they said she has been denied because of her age.

If Sarah Murnaghan were 12 years old, she would be at the top of the adult lung transplant list because she only has weeks to live and a lung transplant would as-good-as cure her of cystic fibrosis.

But she's not 12, and if she doesn't get new lungs, she might not even make it to 11.

The Murnaghan family of Newtown Square, Pa., is fighting a little known organ transplant policy that is effectively pushing 10-year-old Sarah to the bottom of the adult transplant waiting list because it mandates that adult lungs be offered to all adult patients before they can be offered to someone under 12 years old.

"We are not asking for preference for Sarah, we are asking for equality," Sarah's mother, Janet Murnaghan, said in a press release. "We strongly believe Sarah should be triaged based on the severity of her illness, not her age."

Under the existing policy, children like Sarah are forced to wait for a lung transplant, despite her life-threatening illness.

In a letter to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, Sebelius asked for the review to consider changing the policy to make more transplants available to children, The Associated Press reported.

Sebelius called the incongruity between donors and children in need of transplants "especially stark."

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