Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius must allow a dying 10 year-old girl to be placed on a waiting list for an adult lung transplant by waiving a rule that would keep her off the list because she’s under the age of 12, a federal judge ordered today, after Sebelius told Congress she would not do so.
“[T]he Secretary shall direct the [Organ Procurement and Transplant Network] to immediately cease application of the Under 12 Rule as to Sarah Murnaghan so that she can be considered for receipt of donated lungs from adults based on the medical severity of her condition as compared to the medical severity of persons over 12 in the OPTN system,” U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson wrote after the child’s family requested that he issue a “temporary restraining order” that would prevent Sebelius from enforcing the under 12 rule.
Murneghan’s case received national attention during a congressional hearing yesterday. “Why are we going to let a little 10-year-old girl die because she is ten and not twelve?” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., asked Sebelius. “Sarah’s at the top of the pediatric list, those who are eleven or younger. If Sarah were twelve, she’d be at the top of the adult list.”
Sebelius said that the regulation is designed to make sure that lung transplants are made to the people who are most likely to survive the transplant. ““I would suggest, sir, that, again, this is an incredibly agonizing situation where someone lives and someone dies,” she told Barletta. “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 that other organs — that it’s based on the survivability [chances].”
Barletta reminded her that doctors have said Murneghan could use a modified adult lung transplant.
Sebelius noted that “40 people in your home state are waiting on [a lung transplant].”