Medical Ethicist Explains Organ Transplant Dilemma - New York News

Medical Ethicist Explains Organ Transplant Dilemma

Posted: Updated:
CAMDEN, N.J. -

Sarah Murnaghan may have only weeks to live. Tuesday morning that fact became clearer than ever to her family. According to Sharon Ruddock, Sarah's Aunt, "This morning she woke up and her lips were blue and she was very gray."

Doctors were able to stabilize the 10-year-old, but the question now: for how long? That's why Sarah's parents want the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to lift the age restriction that won't allow Sarah to receive an adult lung. Right now only children 12 and older qualify.

According to Sharon Ruddock, Sarah's Aunt, "What we want is for their policy to change so they don't discriminate against children because of age."

Weighing in on the ethics of the case is Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, Medical Ethicist at Cooper University Hospital, "I think it's wrong, I do. I think it's wrong because I think we should go by sickness, because we can use the lobe of a lung from an adult to transplant to a child, even if potentially that income won't be quite as good..."

Sarah's family wants the age policy to be lifted for all children, immediately, so the sickest kids, like Sarah, can compete with adults to get a lung. But even that action would cause an ethical dilemma, according to Dr. Mazzarelli.

"If I'm Kathleen Sebelius, I think I acknowledge there's a problem with the system, and I don't think I make an exception for who this little girl is, as much as I would love to tell you that I would."

She's a little girl with a sweet innocent face. How could anyone choose to let her die?

And Dr. Mazzarelli agrees, "I believe she should be in that system with adults, particularly because when you look at a lot of those adults, it's through actions of their own such as smoking, that they're in the need of having a transplant, vs. a 10 year old who did nothing and needs that lung."

But as unfair as the situation may seem for Sarah, suspending the current policy while it's under review may not be fair either-- according to this medical ethicist.

"The lives we're not talking about are the people who don't get a lung, because we've changed the rules to allow these certain individuals in, right? We have to be careful that we don't so focus on the names that we know, that we don't think about the names that we don't know."

Certainly, Sarah's name and story are now familiar locally, and increasingly, nationwide.

Dr. Mazzarelli elaborates, "It becomes very seductive to want to give that resource out to the face that you know needs it versus thinking about what's the most fair system."

Dr. Mazzarelli does agree the current organ donor policy needs to be reviewed. But he says that process should happen first, before any changes are made.

"We have to look back at why that rule was made, what technology has changed since that point, and I think it's something that you can probably do in a fairly timely manner, but you really have to think about the overall impact when you start making exceptions to a system that's already set up."

  • Sarah's FightMore>>

  • Sarah Murnaghan Leaves CHOP, Arrives Home!

    Sarah Murnaghan Leaves CHOP, Arrives Home!

    Wednesday, December 18 2013 12:12 PM EST2013-12-18 17:12:02 GMT
    After several months in the hospital and agonizing surgeries, 11-year-old Sarah Murnaghan is finally going home today.
    After several months in the hospital and agonizing surgeries, 11-year-old Sarah Murnaghan is finally home!
  • Sarah Murnaghan Breaths On Her Own

    Sarah Murnaghan Breaths On Her Own

    Tuesday, September 17 2013 8:36 PM EDT2013-09-18 00:36:11 GMT
    In the video, Sarah's aunt asks Sarah, "Are you off your machines?" To which Sarah eventually responds, "I feel fine."
    In the video, Sarah's aunt asks Sarah, "Are you off your machines?" To which Sarah eventually responds, "I feel fine."
  • Sarah Murnaghan Recovering At Home

    Sarah Murnaghan Recovering At Home

    Tuesday, September 17 2013 8:26 PM EDT2013-09-18 00:26:48 GMT
    Sarah's mom says she's looking forward to playing with her friends, singing and playing soccer. She'll basically enjoy the normal life of an 11-year-old.
    Sarah's mom says she's looking forward to playing with her friends, singing and playing soccer. She'll basically enjoy the normal life of an 11-year-old.
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Weather conditions ripe for brush fires in NJ

    Weather conditions ripe for brush fires in NJ

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:08 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:08:34 GMT
    Forecasters have issued a red flag warning and fire weather watch for most of New Jersey.
    Forecasters have issued a red flag warning and fire weather watch for most of New Jersey.
  • NYPD Twitter hashtag backfires

    NYPD Twitter hashtag backfires

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:23 AM EDT2014-04-23 10:23:11 GMT
    A NYPD plan intended to better connect with the community seems to have backfired a bit. The police department asked its twitter followers to share pictures of themselves with New York City police officers using the hashtag "myNYPD." Some did share nice pictures, but others not so much.Some of the first pictures posted showed regular citizens standing with very friendly looking police officers.
    A NYPD plan intended to better connect with the community seems to have backfired a bit. The police department asked its twitter followers to share pictures of themselves with New York City police officers using the hashtag "myNYPD." Some did share nice pictures, but others not so much.Some of the first pictures posted showed regular citizens standing with very friendly looking police officers.
  • Caesars enters New York casino competition

    Caesars enters New York casino competition

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:52 PM EDT2014-04-23 02:52:22 GMT
    Caesars Entertainment entered the competition to open a casino in upstate New York on Tuesday with a proposal to build a $750 million complex 50 miles north of New York City. The complex would include a casino, a hotel and a meeting space and would be located in Woodbury, in Orange County. The Las Vegas-based Caesars, which operates 52 casinos around the world, has submitted a $1 million casino license application fee to state gambling regulators.
    Caesars Entertainment entered the competition to open a casino in upstate New York on Tuesday with a proposal to build a $750 million complex 50 miles north of New York City. The complex would include a casino, a hotel and a meeting space and would be located in Woodbury, in Orange County. The Las Vegas-based Caesars, which operates 52 casinos around the world, has submitted a $1 million casino license application fee to state gambling regulators.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices