- (Photo: Facebook/Janet Ruddock Murnaghan)
As 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan continues fighting for her life and hoping for an organ transplant that she desperately needs, critics are calling on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to provide an exception to the law that prohibits her from being entered into a pool of adult candidates.
"Secretary Sebelius has only ordered a revision of the policy, which could take a lengthy amount of time – something Sarah does not have. To me, this shows lack of leadership and, certainly, lack of compassion," wrote Dr. Manny Alvarez, FOX News Channel's senior managing editor for Health News.
The young girl suffers from a condition called cystic fibrosis, and for the past three months has been confined to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, breathing with the support of a ventilator. She desperately needs a transplant and doctors have told her parents she only has three to five weeks left to live.
Murnaghan is two years too young to be entered into a pool of adult candidates for organ transplantation, and because there are fewer juvenile donations of the lung that she needs, her chances of receiving one are currently much smaller. She has been waiting for two years for a donor transplant, but without success.
The parents, Janet and Fran Murnaghan, have personally appealed to Sebelius in hopes of overturning the law and saving their daughter, but the Health and Human Services Secretary has reportedly refused to provide such an exception.
The Washington Examiner noted that when Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican, asked Sebelius during a House hearing Tuesday to intervene in Murnaghan's case, the HHS Secretary described the situation as "incredibly agonizing," where "someone lives and someone dies."
"The medical evidence and the transplant doctors who are making the rule – and have had the rule in place since 2005 making a delineation between pediatric and adult lungs, because lungs are different than other organs – that it's based on the survivability [chances]," she added.
The family expressed disappointment at Sebelius' decision in a statement.
"Secretary Sebelius' decision to not exercise her very clear authority under the law to intervene and mandate a variance that would help Sarah's life is devastating," the family said.
"We are told her only hope is a direct donation from the public. We recognize how difficult the end of a person's life is – we are at that point with Sarah. And we must now ask for the single greatest favor any parent can, and that is to consider naming our child an organ recipient should someone lose the life of a loved one in the very near future."
Dr. Alvarez described the rule excluding children younger than 12 from being candidates for adult organ transplantation as "archaic," and argued that it should not have taken this long for Sebelius to finally call for a revision – which might be too late to save the girl's life.
"I agree with many who have said that this child is a victim of age discrimination. But I also agree that Sarah has been ignored by our federal health leaders and has been placed in a bureaucratic Neverland," he offered.
A Facebook page titled "Donate a lung to Sarah Murnaghan" has been established and contains updates on the girl's condition.