Sen. Pat Toomey makes plea for children awaiting transplants

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In a speech today from the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to use her authority to make medical need and suitability, rather than age, be the primary criteria in determining how organ donations are prioritized. 

Sen. Toomey highlighted the case of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan of Newtown Square, Pa. Sen. Toomey said he is not looking for special treatment for Sarah, rather that the government, “Stop making exceptions that exclude Sarah.”

Background: Sarah Murnaghan has Cystic Fibrosis and is fighting for her life at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as she awaits a life-saving lung transplant. Absent this surgery, doctors believe she has only a few weeks to live.

 The Department of Health and Human Services mandated that organ allocation policies must be based on medical need rather than waiting time or other considerations.

While Sarah’s need is acute, because she is only 10 and not 12, she can’t be on the list to receive an adult organ. Pediatric organ donors are in short supply and there is little chance that Sarah will receive a pediatric lung in time.

This week, Sarah’s family filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in federal court to prevent the Secretary of HHS from enforcing the policy that prevents children under 12 from getting the adult lung transplants they need to save their lives. 

Yesterday, Judge Michael Baylson, senior federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted a temporary restraining order and told the Secretary of HHS to direct the transplant network to cease application of the “Under 12 Rule” as it applies to Sarah.  If there is another child in the judicial district in Sarah’s circumstance, the judge would consider a temporary restraining order if the case is presented in court.  The judge set a preliminary injunction hearing for June 14. 

 U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is also urging people to spread the word of Sarah’s cause. Sen. Casey Thursday announced that he is launching an effort to encourage organ donation.  Casey will promote organ donation on his website and call on the federal government to increase efforts to encourage organ donation.

 “My work on my constituent Sarah Murnaghan’s case has been another vivid reminder of the importance of organ donation.” said Senator Casey. “One way to help Sarah Murnaghan and others in her position is to raise awareness about organ donation.  I hope this will encourage individuals and families in Pennsylvania and across the country to consider giving the gift of life.”