Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Transplant Panel Oks Temporary Rule Fix for Children

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Transplant Panel Oks Temporary Rule Fix for Children

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- After weeks of pleas from the family of 10-year- old Sarah Murnaghan, the organization that sets national organ transplant policy voted late Monday to temporarily improve children's access to adolescent and adult donor lungs, despite criticizing a federal judge for doing the same thing for her.

The executive committee of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network met to consider whether children under 12 were being treated unfairly because they may not be considered for adult lungs ahead of adults who are in less dire need.

The panel voted unanimously to allow transplant centers to request, on a case-by-case basis, priority status for children under 12, so they can vie for lungs from older donors based on need. The special status would be granted -- or refused -- by the national Lung Review Board, an existing appeal body. The amended rule would be effective until July 2014, allowing time to study whether a permanent change is warranted.

"We cannot undo the dangerous precedents set by the judiciary as a result of this case," said committee member Stuart Sweet, a St. Louis pediatric lung transplant specialist who proposed the temporary policy. "But we can take steps to ensure that the next time this question arises, the case can be heard in a more appropriate venue."

Last week, Sarah's parents, Janet and Francis Murnaghan, of Newtown Square, Delaware County, filed a federal suit after the Lung Review Board and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to grant their daughter an exception. Sarah has cystic fibrosis and is near death at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; she was put on a ventilator Saturday.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson in Philadelphia on Wednesday granted her a 10-day reprieve from the so-called "under 12 rule," and on Thursday, the judge added Javier Acosta, 11, of New York, another cystic fibrosis patient awaiting a transplant at Children's. Judge Baylson scheduled another hearing Friday.

The Murnaghans' said in a statement that they consider the appeals process "a tremendous win for Sarah" and all other children awaiting lungs, but added that the biggest issue is finding enough donors to help people who need transplants. …

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