Should Limits Be Placed on the Number of Organ Transplants an Individual receives in their Lifetime?

Opinion by Patricia L Johnson

Sarah Murnaghan is the young lady with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) whose parents, Janet and Francis Murnaghan, filed a motion on June 5, 2013 in the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court against the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The motion (Case Number: 2:2013cv03083) requested a temporary injunction against application of the Under 12 Rule, allowing 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan to be considered as a recipient of an adult lung transplant due to the severity of her condition.

A temporary restraining order [TRO] was approved by the court against the Department of Health and Human Services allowing Sarah’s name to be placed on the adult transplant list and Sarah Murnaghan underwent a double lung transplant on June 12, 2013 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Within hours of receiving the transplant Sarah’s lungs failed.

Two lungs, that could have saved other lives, were simply wasted on June 12, 2013 on Sarah Murnaghan. I say wasted because Sarah suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects not only the lungs, but the digestive tract as well as other areas of a person’s body. It is a life-threatening disease caused by a defective gene which is passed down through the family.

Although millions of individuals carry the CF gene, the only way a person can actually become ill with Cystic Fibrosis is if each one of the parents carry the defective gene. In Sarah’s case, both parents’ genes are defective causing the “deadly” disease.

A person can live with only one lung, as indicated by our new Pope and numerous others. Pope Francis had one of his lungs removed when he was a teenager due to an infection. Many individuals have had a lung removed due to infections, tuberculosis and cancer and go on to lead healthy lives.

As long as I can recall I have had lung problems and although I don’t remember much about my childhood, I do remember gasping for breath when I was a young child, so I can certainly empathize with Sarah’s condition, but I am also an organ donor and as such do not feel the court’s ruling against the DHHS was, in any way, warranted. The Under 12 Rule was put in effect for a reason and Secretary Sebelius made the correct decision in requesting a review.

There are too many individuals in this country that need organ transplants for the court to basically play “God” and decide who is going to be provided with the opportunity to live and who isn’t.

Since Sarah’s lung transplant on June 12th failed, her name was added to the transplant list and the young lady received another double lung transplant on June 15, 2013. Sarah is now scheduled for another surgery on Monday, July 1, 2013 due to the fact she is suffering a complication from the second transplant surgery and was put back on a ventilator due to partial paralysis of her diaphragm.

The surgery scheduled for July 1, 2013 is an effort to repair her diaphragm.

How much suffering should this poor child be forced to endure due to the fact courts have decided they know more than medical professionals?

When all is said and done will we have two wasted lungs that could have been actually used to save other people’s lives, or will we have three or four? Or will more lungs be lost on this one child?

How many lungs will be lost before ignorance is replaced with common sense?

© 2013 Patricia L Johnson

This entry was posted in Health and wellness, News and politics, U.S. Courts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Should Limits Be Placed on the Number of Organ Transplants an Individual receives in their Lifetime?

  1. I ache for the parents of Sarah. I can’t begin to imagine the anguish and fear that they must have felt and are still feeling. At the same time, I hear the wails of the families, of a loved one lost, who might have received a donation that is now a hospital’s bio-trash. That someone, who might have lived a healthy life as a mother, father, brother or sister, did not get another chance. In the end, I have to agree that this was a terrible waste. My sister was an organ donor and to think that her contributions might have ended up in the trash is offensive to me.

    • Administrator says:


      My heart goes out for the parents of Sarah and the parents of the little boy that was in the same situation as Sarah. I cannot even begin to imagine the heartbreak of having a child in a near-death condition. Chris was diagnosed with some sort of blood disease when he was young and I thought I was going to go absolutely nuts worrying about him.

      But the fact remains, we do not have control over life/death situations, that’s left to the Big Guy upstairs, and someone sitting behind the desk in a courtroom should not be allowed to override decisions made by medical professionals after years of researching a subject. There was an age limit for a reason… Yes, it would have been terrible if the little girl would have passed on because a set of lungs was not available to her, but to me this situation is worse… four lungs have been transplanted into her body and she is still not able to breathe on her own. A terrible, terrible waste. Some 13 or 14 year old child could have received those organs and perhaps gone on to lead healthy, happy productive lives.

      My mother died many years ago from kidney failure and I’ve been an organ donor since then because there isn’t a greater gift than the gift of life.

      Thanks for your comment Marlin!

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