Sarah’s Family Wins the Battle For Lung Transplant Policy Change

by Sasikala Radhakrishnan on Jun 24 2014 12:30 PM

Sarah’s Family Wins the Battle For Lung Transplant Policy Change
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 Sarah’s case.

Eventually, Sarah was put on the waiting list for adult lungs despite her young age.

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 transplanted.

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.