Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sarah Murnaghan, Kathleen Sebelius and Life By Popularity Contest

"Kresta in the Afternoon"

I'm having trouble thinking through this Sarah Murnaghan lung transplant case. So here's where I'm at and please disagree if I'm missing something.

1) It's a tragic and heart-wrenching situation and that's a given.

2) It seems to me like there is plenty of room for debate about the policy / rules regarding children under 12 and adult lungs and whether that's discriminatory or not. That discussion should be had. BUT, I think we are being too quick to declare this an outrage. Many conservatives, pro-life groups, etc are calling Kathleen Sebelius a one-woman death panel and ripping her "one person lives one person dies" line. Unfortunately she's right. Lungs are in such high demand that if she waves the rule this time for Sarah, another person WILL DIE because they would have gotten that lung.

3) Hard cases make bad law. In this instance we have a case of high-publicity - parents trying to save the life of a child. Obviously high on the tragic-meter, so people show outrage and demand a resolution. Understandable. But what if we knew who the next match on the list was who wouldn't get this lung? What if that person was a 35-year-old father of 5? What if he ran to the cameras as well? Do you want to be the one who says - "Uh we are changing the rules because of public outcry and the lung you were going to get now goes to this girl. Sorry. Kiss your family good-bye." The fact is there are a lot of "Sarahs" out there both young and old and everywhere in between. Should publicity be the determining factor?

4) We can't pretend like the rules and regulations and policies that govern these types of things are not difficult. If you have a better way than government I'd like to hear it. Should it be a free market? If you have the money to pay for a lung you can buy one that matches? What about a straightforward list? First name on the list gets the first one that matches? But then why should an 80-yr-old lifetime smoker get a lung over a 14-year-old with a genetic abnormality? How about an age limit? The point is we need rules and don't pretend they are easy to make.

So there you go. I wish there was a magical way everyone on the lung transplant list could get a lung, but that's not the case. And I am having trouble seeing why publicity should dictate who lives and who dies.
Here are some other articles:
Kathleen's Choice - Bill Kassel
Federal Judge Issues a Reprieve for Ten year Old Sarah Murnaghan but the Dark Cloud of Death Hovers Over ObamaCare - Deacon Keith Fournier


  1. I absolutely agree if it as you say - many people on a waiting list, and because of publicity, someone gets bumped. These are very tough situations.

    But aside from this type of case, I think you agree everyone is concerned about the government determining immoral services being covered (AND covered with our $$ against our conscience) while, perhaps, grandma's eye or hip surgery will not... which makes all of their criteria suspect!

  2. Kresta,
    You really nailed this one and so beautifully. I posted the first article I saw with the caveat: "There is plenty of room for debate. The lesson here is that a bureaucrat is left making the decision. "

    But even that doesn't quite cover the complexity that you mastered. I am not an organ donor for the very reasons displayed in this case. The idea that my organs can become a commodity frightens me. I have prayed many times for God to spare me from ever being in the position of young Sarah's parents because I don't know what I would do.

    As Catholics we are sacramental...we believe that the visible has an invisible reality. So our bodies are not just empty, meaningless flesh, but they are infused with the integrity of our souls and the meaning of existence. The line between life and death strains the conscience and the intellect.

    Thank youfor pointing this out so succinctly and with due eloquence.

    1. My understanding of this case is that the child was passed over by others on the list whose case was not as severe as hers. She was not singled out for special treatment, she was pushed aside. What they actually could do, in a case of a child is divide an adult lung and give a portion of it to a child and the rest to an adult, giving two people a chance to live.

      As for not putting yourself on a donor list, once you have no use for your body, or it for you, why should you be frightened about anything? I consider organ donation to be on a par with "Greater love hath no man..." you are not giving up your life, it is not here anymore, but your body has the ability to give others a chance at one. Even if your organs are used as a commodity the ones who are getting them will have an opportunity to live that they otherwise would not.

      Medically speaking, the organs are to go to the closest tissue match regardless of placement on the list. Someone can be a t the top of the list for a long time if their tissues are incompatible with the organs that come in. Being at the top of the list is no guarantee of survival. It give one more hope, and that is sometimes enough to go on.