A 10-year-old girl in Pennsylvania is dying of cystic fibrosis as she waits for a lung transplant. Sarah Murnaghan's parents say they are fighting organ donation rules that require adult lungs be offered to adults first, regardless of the seriousness of their condition.
Currently being treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Sarah was given just weeks to live. She is a top priority on the pediatric list for lungs, but pediatric lungs are rare. Because of improved treatment, officials say there are fewer pediatric donors.
Sarah’s parents learned that she would have to be 12 years old in order to be put on the adult list. Since she is only 10, the national organ rule states she will have to wait while adults with her blood type in her region are offered the lungs first.
"The only thing standing between my daughter living and my daughter dying is the fact that she's 10 and not 12," said her mother, Janet Murnaghan. "That's unreal to me."
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If she was an adult, Sarah would also be a top priority on the adult list. Instead, she will not be considered until after adults with stable, less severe conditions.
"Since we really have gotten to understand the rules of all of this in the last week or two, it's really driven us to speak out," said her father, Fran Murnaghan.
Sarah’s family and friends began a petition on Change.org to allow pediatric transplants of adult lungs based on medical necessity. As of Monday morning it has nearly 30,000 signatures.
The pediatric lung allocation guidelines were set up without a prioritization for kids under 12 because at the time there was a lack of data to compare the two groups, according to Dr. Stuart Sweet, director of the pediatric lung transplant program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
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When asked about concerns over whether adult candidates who are less sick are getting transplants instead of sick children, Sweet said, “There’s no way to really answer that question.” He said the number of adults who die waiting for an organ transplant greatly exceeds the number of children.
"The reality is ... the numbers suggest that there's lots of patients who are running out of time on the waiting list and many more patients run out of time ... in the older age group than the younger group," he said.
Photo Credit: WFTC