Dr. George Mallory, the medical director of the lung transplant program at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said it’s not clear why 10 of the children who wanted to be considered for adult lungs didn’t get them. It’s possible, he said, that their doctors were offered the lungs but chose not to take them. Sometimes, pediatric surgeons will only choose adult lungs if their pediatric patients have run out of options and time because they need to be resized and are more difficult to transplant.
“We don’t know how many adult lungs might have been offered to that group, and how often those lungs were deemed unsuitable,” Mallory said, adding that he hopes OPTN doesn’t vote to remove the rule. “I think it was a good move by the UNOS board, and I hope they renew it.”
Sarah Murnaghan’s mother, Janet Murnaghan, said in a statement that the family is “thrilled” that the temporary rule change is being evaluated and could become more permanent in the future.
“We hope and pray that this change will come to fruition,” she wrote. “This certainly appears to be a very positive step toward that objective. “
Mallory said that although the Murnaghans have said the existing lung allocation policy is unfair and arbitrary, adult physicians initially thought giving pediatric preference for adolescent and child lungs was unfair to adults back in 2005, when the existing lung allocation rules were instated. But given that nearly 2,000 adult lung transplants happen annually, the 10 or so adult lungs that might go to children under this new rule would have a minimal effect on the adult population: “a drop in the bucket,” Mallory said.
“It might be a huge help to children who might be facing death without this gift,” Mallory said, adding that OPTN aims to be fair and has regular meetings to tweak rules to make them better.
“Nobody wants children, or anybody, to die on the waiting list.”