Sarah Murnaghan won a federal court challenge late Wednesday that will place her at a higher spot on the adult transplant list, allowing her a better chance to receive a pair of new lungs. Federal Judge Michael Baylson ordered Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to stop enforcing a rule that effectively keeps children under 12 off the adult transplant list even if they are medically qualified to receive modified lungs from adult donors.
As I previously reported, 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan has already been waiting a year and a half for a pair of new lungs. With only weeks to live without a lung transplant, the critically ill cystic fibrosis patient has been living at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with her family since February.
She entered the intensive care unit two weeks ago.
In May, her mother Janet Murnaghan learned that one reason her child has been waiting so long is that Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OTPN) rules mean that every candidate age 12 or older on the adult lung transplant list is ahead of Sarah — even if they aren’t as desperately in need of the new lungs.
Yet many children like Sarah can make use of properly modified adult lungs, even if they’re not yet age 12.
The family has been fighting ever since for a change in those rules. Sebelius had already informed a congressional panel on Tuesday that she wouldn’t intervene, saying that medical personnel must make the decisions about where patients appear on the transplant list.
Instead, Sebelius called for a review of the rules that might eventually lead to changes to allow more children to get a better spot on the list. Unfortunately, Sarah just doesn’t have time to wait.
Judge Baylson’s order is effective immediately and said that all patients must be listed in order of medical urgency.
On Wednesday night, Sebelius sent a written letter to the head of the OPTN informing the group that a second organ candidate record had been placed in the files giving Murnaghan’s age as 12 instead of 10. The new record will allow the computers to change Sarah’s spot on the list immediately.
The 10-year-old isn’t out of the woods yet. There’s another hearing on June 14, and it’s possible that Baylson’s restraining order could be lifted then.
And there is never any guarantee that a set of transplantable lungs will be ready in time. But Sarah Murnaghan’s chances just got a lot better — at least for now.
[Sarah Murnaghan photo by Janet Murnaghan via Facebook]