Sarah Murnaghan Gets Lung Transplant After Challenging Child Donor Rules

Image: Sarah Murnaghan Gets Lung Transplant After Challenging Child Donor Rules

Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 04:34 PM

By Hillary Mayell

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Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old with severe cystic fibrosis, has taken on the medical community and won. On Wednesday, she was undergoing lung transplant surgery.

Murnaghan's health was declining, but the donor list for lungs for children is short and children under 12 years of age are not considered for adult donations until after adults and adolescents waiting for transplants have been considered. The adult lung donor availability list is much longer and transplant outcome success much better.

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Murnaghan’s doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania felt that in her particular case, an adult lung transplant was justified, and supported the family in their petition to the federal court challenging the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network ruling that barred Sarah from the adult lung donor availability list. She has been on the child-donated lung list since December 2011.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), an independent nonprofit entity created by Congress, controls the rules and manages transplant needs, prioritizing patients by medical needs. Murnaghan, at 10 years of age, was ineligible to apply for organ-donated adult lungs.

Federal Judge Michael Baylson in Philadelphia ruled that Murnaghan, of Newtown Square, Pa., and 11-year-old Javier Acosta, of New York City, should be eligible for adult lungs.

"I am humbled by the efforts of Sarah and her family to advocate for children in need of organ donations all over the United States," Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania said. "Her story is an example of the strength and will of the human spirit, and a reminder to never give up and always give back to those who most need our help," Corbett said. "I wish her well.''

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation defines the disease as "an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food."

Not everyone is in favor of the judicial intervention. Lung transplants are a difficult procedure regardless of age, and children have a lower success rate than adults.

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Related stories:

Dying Girl Needing Lung Forces Change in US Donor Policy

100,000 Facebook Users Use New Organ Donor Option

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