Why Aren't Kids Given Higher Priority On Organ Waiting Lists?

According to current policy, when a child under 12 qualifies for an adult-sized organ, they're often placed on the bottom of the adult list, even if their condition is more critical, because of a lack of comparative data.

What's the Latest Development?

Earlier this week a Pennsylvania family sued the US Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to circumvent an eight-year-old policy regarding children under 12 and adult organ transplants. A district court judge quickly ruled in their favor, which means that, until at least June 14, 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan has been given higher priority for receiving a partial lung transplant. Without this ruling, she would have remained at a lower position, despite the severity of her condition.

What's the Big Idea?

According to current policy, transplant recipients are prioritized using a scoring system based on, among other data, the likelihood of their survival compared with others who have had similar transplant surgeries. When it comes to children under 12 who qualify for an adult-sized organ, there haven't been enough surgeries done to provide enough data. Consequently, even though Sarah had the highest score in her region, her age put her below adults with less-severe diagnoses. Writer Michael Fitzgerald notes the conundrum at the heart of the matter: "We don’t hope to have more data, because that would mean more children in need. But we need the data, because that would help society identify the patients most in need—no matter their age."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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