Sebelius Won't Intervene in Transplant Case

Health chief calls young girl's plight 'incredibly agonizing'

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jun 4, 2013 6:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – The US health secretary said she won't intervene in an "incredibly agonizing" transplant decision about a dying Pennsylvania girl, noting that three other children in the same hospital are just as sick. Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional panel today that medical experts should make those decisions. The 10-year-old girl has been hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for three months with end-stage cystic fibrosis and is on a ventilator. Her family wants children younger than 12 to be eligible for adult lungs because so few pediatric lungs are available.

Under current policy, only patients 12 and older can join the list, but Sarah's transplant doctors say she is medically eligible for an adult lung. Sebelius conceded the case was an "incredibly agonizing situation" but said many complex factors go into the transplant-list formula. Sebelius has called for a review of pediatric transplant policies, but the Murnaghans and their advocates say Sarah doesn't have time for that. "I'm begging you. ... She has three to five weeks to live. Please suspend the rules," Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., urged Sebelius at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on her department's budget.

In this May 30 photo provided by the Murnaghan family, Sarah Murnaghan, left, lies in her hospital bed next to adopted sister Ella.
In this May 30 photo provided by the Murnaghan family, Sarah Murnaghan, left, lies in her hospital bed next to adopted sister Ella.   (AP Photo/Murnaghan family)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this May 30 photo provided by the Murnaghan family, Sarah Murnaghan, center, is with her father Fran and mother Janet.
In this May 30 photo provided by the Murnaghan family, Sarah Murnaghan, center, is with her father Fran and mother Janet.   (AP Photo/Murnaghan family)
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