Conditions

10-Year-Old Sarah Murnaghan 'Will Not Be Penalized For Her Age', Judge Michael Baylson Orders She Be Added To Adult Lung Transplant List

Sarah Murnaghan
Sarah Murnaghan's family hopes that her life will be saved by a judge's order that allows her to be placed on the adult lung transplant list. Facebook/Janet Ruddock Murnagh

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday which will make 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan eligible to seek an organ from an adult donor.

Earlier this week, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made headlines when she denied the Murnaghan family's request to place little Sarah, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, on the adult donor list so that she can receive a lung transplant. Murnaghan's doctors said that she could die from complications related to her end-stage cystic fibrosis if she does not receive the transplant.

"We're going to let a kid die over red tape. Somebody needs to stand up and say this isn't right. This is a human issue this isn't politics," Murnaghan's mother, Janet, told reporters.

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic, progressive disease of the body's mucus glands. The disease is genetic and primarily affects the respiratory and digestive systems in children and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with cystic fibrosis live an average of 30 years. With treatment and management of major problems, like a lung transplant in Murnaghan's case, some patients live to be much older than 30.

The rules for transplants place children at a lower priority than adults on the transplant list for donor lungs. These rules are regulated by the HHS, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, and the U.S. Network for Organ Sharing. HHS Secretary Sebelius, however, had the power to override the existing rule to place Murnaghan on the list. She refused to do so.

"The medical evidence and the transplant doctors who are making the rule — and have had the rule in place since 2005 making a delineation between pediatric and adult lungs, because lungs are different than other organs — that it's based on the survivability [chances]," said Sebelius, defending the existing rules.

Essentially, medical professionals believe that adult lungs are just too large to transplant into a young child.

The Murnighans filed suit in Philadelphia yesterday seeking to bar Sebelius from enforcing the rule, saying "if Sarah does not soon receive a set of donated lungs, she will die."

Judge Baylson's initial order allows Murnaghan's parents to remain hopeful for a little while longer. She has been placed on the donor list for now and the Judge will will revisit her case in a hearing on June 14.

"The public interest here is significant," Baylson said at a hearing yesterday. "It's a better exercise of my discretion to grant the TRO and to do it right now."

Almost 1,700 people across the United States are awaiting a lung transplant, 30 of whom are ten years of age or younger. Last year there were 11 lung donors from the ages of 6 to 10.

"For us, this means that for the next 10 days, Sarah's placement in the queue for adult lungs will be based on the severity of her illness, and she will not be penalized for her age," the family said in a statement.

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