The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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Opinion

June 8, 2013

U.S. medical policies shouldn’t be overruled

---- — Sarah Murnaghan has to die. That was a pretty harsh message for the parents of 10-year-old Sarah to hear.

But it was one that was delivered by many medical people, including Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of U. S. Health and Human Services.

If you haven’t paid attention to the plight of the Philadelphia youngster, it goes like this:

Sarah has end-state cystic fibrosis. She has been in the hospital for months and has only a few weeks to live if she doesn’t receive a lung transplant. But there are very few available lungs from young people available for transplant and the success of adult lungs put into someone as young as Sarah is highly questionable.

That’s why the national policy of the United Network for Organ Sharing is that children under age 12 must wait for pediatric lungs to become available. Unfortunately, it was pretty much assured that Sarah wouldn’t live long enough for that to happen.

Then the unbelievable happened. Sarah’s family went before U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson and Baylson suspended the age factor in the country’s transplant rules for 10 days.

This was stunning because for a judge to overrule an established medical system creates what could become an enormous problem. Now everyone who doesn’t agree with their place on the transplant list could go to court seeking the same kind of advantage.

No matter how you shape it, when it comes to transplants, some people will die before they are eligible to receive the help they need.

There has to be some kind of ethical standards like the UNOS system that assures that rich and famous people don’t automatically jump to the top of the list and live, while regular people die. However, regular people like Sarah can’t jump to the top of the list, either.

What people really need to fight for is better funding for genetic studies and development of both embryonic and adult stem cell technology that can produce new organs. That would save a lot of people on transplant lists in need of a variety of organs.

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