Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rebuffed an appeal from Rep. Lou Barletta on behalf of a girl who needs a lung transplant but can’t get one because of a federal regulation that prevents her from qualifying for a transplant.
“Please, suspend the rules until we look at this policy,” Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican, asked Sebelius during a House hearing Tuesday on behalf of Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old girl who needs a lung transplant. She can’t qualify for an adult lung transplant until the age of 12, according to federal regulations, but Sebelius has the authority to waive that rule on her behalf. The pediatric lungs for which she currently qualifies aren’t available.
“I would suggest, sir, that, again, this is an incredibly agonizing situation where someone lives and someone dies,” Sebelius replied. “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 that other organs — that it’s based on the survivability [chances].”
Barletta countered that medical professionals think Murneghan could survive an adult lung transplant. During the exchange, he also said that the girl has three to five weeks to live.
Sebelius reminded Barletta that 40 people in Pennsylvania are on the “highest acuity list” for lung transplants.