Sarah Murnaghan: 10-Year-Old Needs Lung Transplant For Cystic Fibrosis, Moved To Adult Waiting List After Judge's Controversial Decision
Sarah Murnaghan has long suffered from cystic fibrosis; the 10-year-old from Pennsylvania was diagnosed with the illness at just 18 months old. Now, Sarah Murnaghan may be eligible for an adult lung transplant after a federal judge temporarily lifted an age restriction on organ transplants that only allows people 12 years and older to be put on the transplant waiting list.
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According to BBC, a U.S. federal judge skirted a federal policy on Wednesday when he ruled that Murnaghan could be put on the adult lung transplant list, even though she doesn't meet the age requirement to do so. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, appointed to his post at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, issued a temporary 10-day restraining order against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, after the family of Sarah Murnaghan sued.
"Now Sarah has a chance for a lung transplant, and I plan to keep fighting for her and others who deserve to be eligible," U.S. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said in a statement. He said that medical need, not age, should determine who gets an organ and who waits.
The HHS enforces the policy that prevents children under 12 from getting adult lung transplants regardless of how ill they are. Children's lungs are in much shorter supply than adult ones. Daily Mail reports that in 2012, there were just 10 lung transplants for Sarah's age group; adults saw 1,700 such transplants.
One of the reasons for the 12-and-under rule is that children often fare worse than adults after lung transplants, Dr Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University Langone Medical Center, told BBC.
Sarah Murnaghan has been on the children's organ waiting list for 18 months, but none have become available. An adult lung could be modified to work well in a child, CNN reports.
HHS reports that over 115,000 U.S. men, women and children need life-saving organ transplants. Every 10 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list. About 18 lives are lost every day while waiting for a new organ.
And while 90 percent of Americans support donor transplants, only 42 percent of licensed drivers and ID holders are registered donors.
In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act, which also established the Organ Procurement and Transportation Network to maintain a national registry of organs for donor pairing. The act was meant to address the country's shortage in critical organ donations, and to improve the way donors and recipients were matched.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease of the lungs and digestive track that affects about 30,000 U.S. children and adults. The inherited ailment causes the body to product abnormally thick, sticky mucus (usually thin and slippery) that clogs in the lungs, leading to deadly lung infections. The mucus also obstructs the pancreas and inhibits the body's ability to properly break down and absorb food.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in the mid-20th century, kids with cystic fibrosis, or CF, rarely lived past preschool. Today's medical advances have allowed people suffering from CF to live well into their 30s and 40s.
About 1,000 people are diagnosed with CF each year, more than 70 percent of them by the age of two. Almost half of all CF patients currently living with the disease are 18 or older.
Symptoms of CF include persistent coughing and phlegm, salty skin, recurring lung infections, wheezing and shortness of breath, and poor growth and weight gain. White people of Northern European ancestry are most at risk of developing CF. It also occurs in Hispanics, African-Americans and some Native Americans, and far less so in people of Asian and Middle Eastern origin, according to Mayo Clinic.
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