Sarah Murnaghan is dying. Cystic fibrosis has taken its toll on her lungs. Without a transplant, she will not live. Sarah’s family has fought to get Sarah on the adult transplant list. It would offer a wider pool of donors. Only Sarah was too young. The “Under 12 Rule” assured the Murnaghan family that Sarah wouldn’t see her 11th birthday.
Imagine the anguish as a mother, watching your child die before you, hindered by red tape, bureaucracy, and outdated rules. Sarah’s mom did the only thing she could think of. She begged for help from the very top. And was promptly told no.
Filing suit wasn’t something the family wanted to do; it was something the family had to do.
Federal court Judge Michael Baylson may have saved Sarah’s life today. From his ruling: “[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…”
The “Secretary” he refers to is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. And the order demands that she put Sarah on the adult donor list. While it doesn’t guarantee a transplant, it does give Sarah a much better chance of survival. That it took a court order to save Sarah is tragic.
But, is it really that surprising?
When Sarah’s parents appealed to Sebelius to make an exception to the Under 12 Rule, Sebelius refused to intervene.
Politicians from Sarah’s home state of Pennsylvania begged for her to do something, anything to help. Rep. Barletta asked her to suspend the Under 12 Rule. Her response is nothing short of cavalier.
“I would suggest, sir, that, again, this is an incredibly agonizing situation where someone lives and someone dies.”