This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
A Pennsylvania family’s legal fight to get a lung transplant for Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old with cystic fibrosis, ultimately proved successful. She is now recuperating after receiving adult lungs that under federal rules wouldn’t have been available to her because of her age.
Sarah’s story has a happy ending. But medical ethicists are rightly concerned about health decisions being made by a judge rather than by transplant experts.
In Sarah’s case, a federal judge ordered that she have access to lungs from adult donors — essentially circumventing rules set up by the national transplant system overseen for the federal government by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
Those rules give children under 12 top priority for lungs from other children and second priority for lungs from donors 12 to 17 years old. They don’t get adult lungs unless there are no adult transplant candidates in the area — something that rarely occurs. Read more »