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Child's transplant surgery raises controversy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Child's transplant surgery raises controversy

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PHILADELPHIA -

Sarah Murnaghan is recovering in the intensive care unit at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. A machine is helping her breathe. The 10-year-old could take her first breaths with her new lungs-- donated from an adult-- as early as Friday.

"So, we can't wait for that," said Sharon Ruddock, Sarah's aunt.

Sarah was close to dying from severe cystic fibrosis. Her aunt says her niece's recovery is going to be painful and difficult.

"Her lungs were in such bad shape, the recovery for her is going to be much harder than if she had received the lungs six months ago," Ruddock said.

Transplant policy makes children under 12 wait for pediatric lungs to become available, but pediatric lungs are rarely donated. Sarah's family went to court to get her put on the adult waiting list. A federal judge agreed to make Sarah an exception to the rule. Doctors say she had just weeks to live.

"She undoubtedly got preferential treatment," said Dr. Scott Halpern, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Halpern says the ruling sets a troubling precedent.

"I don't think people want judges making medical decisions any more than they want doctors making Supreme Court decisions," Halpern said.

Sarah's family says the donor lungs came through normal channels.

Sarah's biggest hurdle now is the possibility that her body will slowly reject her new lungs. If everything goes well she could be out of the hospital in a few weeks.

An 11-year-old boy with the same disease as Sarah is now in the same hospital waiting for a lung transplant. The same judge also allowed him to be an exception to the federal transplant rules.

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