Organ Donation Group Agrees To Revise Policy

Organ Donation Group Agrees To Revise Policy

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Will Sarah Murnaghan receive the lungs she needs to save her life? No one can answer that question just yet.

But she and other children like her may now have a better chance of survival.

Sarah is 10 years old. Under current organ donor rules, she has to be 12 to get on an adult waiting list, where there are many more lung donations than on the pediatric list. Her parents appealed, but the OPTN, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, at first turned them away.

According to family lawyer Steve Harvey, "My clients specifically sought review of their cases by the OPTN and were told there was no process by which they could be considered, they couldn't even think about whether to treat them as if they were 12."

So her parents launched a massive publicity campaign, insisting that Sarah was being discriminated against because of her age. That forced the transplant network to take a longer, closer look at Sarah's case. The executive committee met by phone tonight, and it didn't sound promising.

Dr. Steven Webber, a member of OPTN, "We did not feel that there was overwhelming compelling evidence of a systematic unfairness or discrimination as it's been said in the current system. We felt we should continue to study this carefully but urgently, but in a standard manner."

In other words, many on the panel didn't want to take immediate action on Sarah's case, for fear that it would set a bad precedent. But in the end, Sarah's story did prompt some change. The OPTN would not suspend the age restriction. But it did agree to revise its policy, so child candidates like Sarah could appeal. As of Monday night, her hospital's lung transplant program can now request that she be considered alongside the adults.

So according to Harvey, "They can make the appeal but there's no guarantee they'll be put on that list. It takes the decision out of the hands of lawyers and a judge and puts it before transplant professionals."

On her Facebook page, Sarah's mom Janet called it a tremendous win for her daughter and for all kids waiting for lungs, including Javier Acosta, who is two months shy of his 12th birthday. The lung review board will have seven days to reach a decision.

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