May 25, 2024

US court fast-tracks dying girl’s lung transplant

A US court has overruled government health policy and fast-tracked a lung transplant for a Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis.

A US court has overruled government health policy and fast-tracked a lung transplant for a Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis. On Wednesday US District judge Michael Baylson overruled the regulation that prevents children under 12 from getting adult lung transplants regardless of how ill they are. The rule was waived for Sarah Murnaghan, a cystic fibrosis patient at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s intensive care unit, who is believed to only have weeks to live.

Murnaghan’s family – and many bioethics lobby groups – have for weeks been petitioning US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius to waive the rule for Sarah. Sibelius believes that it would be wrong to change the policy so rashly for one patient. She said that that transplant experts believed the procedure to be extremely risky, and that the policy should not be revised without a proper HHS review.

Bioethicist Authur Caplan said that it is troubling, and perhaps precedent-setting, for a judge to overrule that medical judgment, and predicted a run to the courthouse by patients who don’t like their place on the waiting list. “I’m not sure I want judges or congressmen or bureaucrats trying to decide what to do with organs at the bedside,” Caplan said.

At the hearing, Dr Samuel Goldfarb, one of the girl’s doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the head of its heart and lung transplantation programs, testified that she was critically ill and had worsened in the past 24 hours. A machine has helped her breathe since she entered the hospital about three months ago, and she will probably need more invasive assistance within a week. Without new lungs, she would probably die within weeks. He said that 12 was an “arbitrary” age for the change in policy.

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
organ transplants