It’s wonderful that the 10-year old suburban Philadelphia girl in need of a lung transplant whose plight became national news was finally able to get one on Wednesday. “God is great! He moved the mountain!” exclaimed Sarah Murnaghan’s mother, Janet Ruddock Murnaghan, on her Facebook page.
Actually, it was her parents who took her case to court and a federal judge who moved the mountain. The judge ordered that Sarah, as well as an 11-year-old boy waiting for lungs at the same hospital, be allowed to compete for them on an equal basis with adults.
Transplantation always entails an extraordinary mix of heartache and joy. Someone must die and donate organs, so someone else gets a chance to survive. Meanwhile, people waiting for organs often die while people ahead of them on the list get organs and live.
Everyone on an organ waiting list is desperate and everyone deserves a chance. But how those chances are doled out is a complicated process, particularly with lung transplants. People waiting for lungs are grouped according to age—children under 12, adolescents, and adults—and get priority for lungs from donors in their age group. As Alan Zarembo reported in the Los Angeles Times, the rationale behind the rankings takes into account difference in lung size, different medical criteria, death rates, and survival rates.