"It's a very disheartening thing to hear and read about because you've got a child in desperate need of a transplant to survive ... and people less qualified in terms of severity are able to get that organ instead of this child because of what's in place," Doshi said. "From a medical standpoint, we look at these types of hurdles and obstacles and sometimes get frustrated with the system."
Sarah's family started an online petition at change.org to persuade the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to change its policy. So far, it has gathered about 343,000 signatures.
Doshi said he believes children under 12 years old should be considered with the adult patients and awarded organs based on the severity of their conditions. Adult lungs may not perfectly fit child patients, but they can be used to save multiple children. One of his 6-year-old patients got a partial lung donation from her mother several years ago in a last-ditch effort to save her life.
Although adults make up the majority of the lung transplant waiting list, NYU Langone Medical Center's head bioethicist Art Caplan said children should be given priority if they're sicker than those adults, in part because children should be able to get more healthy years out of the lungs than adults.
"At the end of the day it's not so simple as kids versus adults," Caplan said, adding that chances of survival with the new organ and many other issues factor into the decision. "I think, however, there is a case that would say ... most Americans -- as donors -- would want to give priority to children."