A 10-year-old girl is fighting for her life, and House Republicans today accused Kathleen Sebelius of refusing to save her.
The Health and Human Services Secretary appeared this morning before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and while lawmakers once again clashed with her over implementation of the Affordable Care Act, several appeared more concerned with the case of Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old from Newtown Square, Pa., who may die of cystic fibrosis without a lung transplant in the coming weeks.
If Murnaghan were 12 years old, she would rank near the top of the adult lung transplant list. But as a 10-year-old, she must wait longer: A waiting-list policy states that adult transplant recipients be given preference before children under 12.
Murnaghan's parents have asked that HHS waive the policy in their daughter's case. Last week, Sebelius ordered a review of the policy.
ABC's Sydney Lupkin and Alexis Shaw reported on Sarah Murhaghan, the policy, and the HHS review last week.
"It simply takes your signature," Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a former doctor and one of the Republican Party's most active House members on health policy, told Sebelius. Price said the policy review will take "a year" to complete-too long to be of any help to Sarah Murnaghan.
"This young lady will be dead," Price said.
Sebelius has spoken with Janet Murnaghan, Sarah's mother, she said. The HHS secretary defended her resistance to moving Sarah to the top of the list, saying she defers to a committee of surgeons and health-care providers to determine the transplant policy. Sebelius said she has looked "very carefully" at the history of the policy.
"I can't imagine anything more difficult," Sebelius said.
"Unfortunately, there are about 40 seriously ill Pennsylvanians over the age of 12 also waiting for a lung transplant," Sebelius said. There are also other children at the same hospital where Sarah Murnaghan is being treated.
In a contentious exchange with Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, Sebelius acknowledged that Murnaghan's transplant request is an "incredibly agonizing situation where someone lives and someone dies."
"I'm begging you. Sarah has three to five weeks to live," Barletta said. "Time is running out. Please suspend the rules until we look at this policy, which we all believe is flawed."
Barletta said that in Sarah's case, an adult lung transplant would likely save her life, meaning there is no medical reason she should take lower priority than someone two years older.
There is "so much bullcrap around this place, and we have the chance to save someone's life-there's no logic to this," an agitated Barletta said, as he and Sebelius at times talked over each other.