Who Should Get What?


There’s a ten-year-old girl in Pennsylvania who is dying of cystic fibrosis. The only way to save her life is to give her a lung transplant. Because she’s under twelve, she has to wait for another child to die so that that child’s lungs can be placed into her body. It’s a bit of a squick kind of thing, but it’s what has to be done. Anyone over twelve can get adult organs, anyone under twelve has to get kid organs.

Or at least that was the case. Now a judge has issued a ruling saying that the girl in question needs to be moved up to the adult list so that she can get a pair of adult lungs.

This is a sad, unpleasant case all around, and there aren’t any real winners here. That’s generally the case with most organ transplants, where for person A to live, person B has to have died, and died in such a way as to have left the organs usable. There’s a very limited supply, and so a relatively unbiased, fair system has been worked out where people are put onto a waiting list and kids and adults are handled differently.

That last part is very important. Let’s say that a set of adult lungs become available. Unless they’re from a fairly small adult, I don’t see how they would fit into the body of a ten-year-old girl. If she gets them, and they fail because of the age situation, then not only will she likely die, but so will the adult who would have gotten the lungs.

I’m sure there’s people out there who would say that it’s worth the risk; that her life must take priority because she’s a child. Bullshit. Her life must take priority if you’re directly involved with her or her family. Otherwise you’re telling someone else’s beloved family member that this girl’s life is more important than that of their loved one.

This is why we have systems like we do, and why a judge has no business stepping in. Having made an exception for this girl, how will the courts not justify making exceptions for other kids? No, the system needs to remain fair and unbiased as much as it is possible to do so. It’s harsh and unpleasant at times, sure, but how do you think the parents of other kids, whose children aren’t getting put onto the adult list, will feel? No, really we need to just let the system work. The judge overreached in this case and the ruling needs to be overturned. If that means that a sweet, innocent ten-year-old girl dies, well, that sucks, but that’s how things are. Hopefully her other organs can be used for other kids on the list.

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