The family of Sarah Murnaghan, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania
girl, has won the campaign they waged for national policy change with respect
to lung transplant age restraints.
As a consequence, the Organ
Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) and United Network for Organ Sharing
(UNOS) notified their policy change henceforth allowing some children aged 11
or less to get additional benefits pertaining to lung transplants, including
lungs from older donors,
The ailing Sarah was battling for life and was on the verge of death due to
an extensive damage caused to her lungs by advanced-stage cystic fibrosis. She had a lengthy hospital stay at the
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Sarah sustained multiple compression fractures of her spine and broken
feet in view of her long hospital stay and the ailment.
Doctors emphasized the need for lung transplant in her without which they
said death was inevitable.
But, the OPTN did not consider her case eligible for lung transplant as it
went against the national policy disallowing transplant of adult donor lungs
into children under 12 years.
However, the girl’s parents filed an appeal against the decision based on
the argument that the policy was arbitrary and discriminatory.
Consequently, in June 2013, a federal
judge passed an order temporarily relaxing the age-restriction policy in
Eventually, Sarah was put on the waiting list for adult lungs despite her
A few days after, the girl got her first set of modified adult lungs, but
since her body rejected them, another set of lungs was required to be
Sarah went home in Newtown Square after which her condition improved
dramatically. Now, she is breathing on
her own, although she is still under rehabilitation.
Her family is jubiliant as her new lungs "look beautiful" and
there has been no rejection.
Meanwhile, the OPTN conducted a year-long study after which they made
permanent changes to the national policy guidelines on lung transplant.
The change was ratified by a vote of 38-1 with one abstention by the OPTN
Board of Directors.
The OPTN announced “a very limited group of young lung transplant
candidates” will receive “additional priority for matching offers.”
According to the transplant network, scarcity of donors vis-à-vis demand for
organ transplants poses a great challenge.
Sarah’s family also expressed their excitement over the permanent policy
change by the OPTN.