Sarah Murnaghan 'Doing Fantastic' After Double Lung Transplant

Image: Sarah Murnaghan 'Doing Fantastic' After Double Lung Transplant

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 01:54 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Young double-lung transplant recipient Sarah Murnaghan arrived home in Pennsylvania in what her mother calls the "next chapter" of her life that took the 11-year-old from the hospital to federal court and back.

Earlier this summer, there was serious doubt that Murnaghan would return home after her lungs, severely damaged by cystic fibrosis, would survive, wrote the Los Angeles Times.

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Because of national rules governing the allocation of organ donations, Murnaghan was too young to be eligible for adult lung donations and waiting for a lung donor her age could be too late.

Murnaghan's parents sued, saying the age policy was discriminatory and won in federal court. But when the first transplant failed, her parents thought she would die. The girl recovered and received a second transplant, which was successful.

"Sarah’s looking forward to being a regular little kid," her mother, Janet Murnaghan, told the Los Angeles Times and other reporters during a news conference in front of their home in Newtown Square, Pa., Tuesday. "She’s doing fantastic, and this is really the beginning of the next chapter."

While Murnaghan has made it home, her case opened new questions on organ donation rules and how this example could permanently change those rules.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network – the private nonprofit group that manages U.S. organ allocation and which the Murnaghans successfully sued – added Sarah to their adult list after the court ruling.

Anne Paschke, of the United Network for Organ Giving, told CBS News Tuesday that the temporary option for other children to apply for adult lungs will be in effect until the end of June 2014. She said a committee is studying whether to make that change permanent, or view other options for young transplant patients.

Bioethicist Dr. Margaret Moon, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, told CBS it would be a challenge for the organ donation system to regularly react to donation requests case by case without specific rules.

"It would be very difficult that this system has to respond for individual pleas for help," Moon told CBS News. "Every story is compelling. It's always tragic when someone doesn't get an organ – that can't be a reason to change that approach."

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