Sarah Murnagham, an eleven-year-old girl suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, is on the path to recovery after receiving a lung transplant.
Here is what it took to get to this point: 18 months of waiting, a national media campaign rallying against the current organ recipient list policy, a federal judge’s mandate and one failed lung transplant.
While the happy ending to this story seems to make all the effort worth it, certain aspects of her story have raised important ethical questions, some of which the Rutgers Bioethics Society tackled at its first meeting of the Fall 2013 semester.
Points of discussion:
1. Is it ethical/prudent to maintain two separate organ donation lists for adults and children under 12?
At the end of the meeting a vote was taken and the majority of attendees supported either completely merging the lists or maintaining the two lists, but cross-listing children under 12.
2. Should federal judges be making decisions on organ donation policy, or should these policies be left under the control of experts in the medical field?
3. Is age an adequate proxy for developmental stage and size?
4. What criteria should be taken into account when determining priority on an organ donation list? Post-transplant life expectancy? Number of dependents? Probability of success? Age?
Votes were taken at the end on various criteria and while the inclusion of many criteria remained controversial, nearly everyone agreed that the probability of success of the surgery should be taken into account when determining a patient’s place on the recipient list.