Who Lives? Who Dies?
The nation is focused on the story of a 10 year old girl dying of Cystic Fibrosis. A judge has just ordered that she be placed on the waiting list for an adult lung transplant, rather than follow current federal policy that children under 12 be on a separate list. The media are telling us that the judge is saving her life. That is only half of the story.
The ugly truth is that we do not have enough donated lungs to save everyone who needs a lung transplant. (The same is true for hearts, kidneys, livers.) For every person saved by a transplant, there is someone who is not. And the odds are far worse outside the USA.
Should a child be placed ahead of adults? Maybe. Should one child be placed on the adult list while all the other children who will die without a lung transplant are not? That is a tougher question that the judge did not consider.
We have known since 1972, when I worked on the Transplant Unit at U of Minnesota, that we need more donors of healthy organs. Starting that conversation with the grieving family of a child or young adult killed in a motorcycle or other accident is cruel, even ghoulish.
Talk about the uncomforatble possibilities with your loved ones. Check the organ donor box next time you renew your driver’s license. Give one more desperate person a chance at life.
Jay Ginther, MD