By
hardball
updated 6/7/2013 7:15:20 PM ET 2013-06-07T23:15:20

Sarah Murnaghan, 10, has made headlines around the world as she waits for a lung transplant. Her case demonstrates why the country needs to change its organ donation policy--immediately.

Let me finish tonight with this.

In a week of NSA and DNA and MLB, a 10-year-old girl has captured national and world attention.

Sarah Murnaghan is dying of end-stage cystic fibrosis in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  She has been waiting for lung transplant for a year and a half.

Now, she has weeks to live–if that.

The issue?

To be eligible for an adult lung you have to be 12 years old and Sarah is only 10, so she’s been waiting for a transplant from a pediatric donor–of which there are few.

Her parents appealed, requesting Sarah be placed on the adult lung transplant list. That appeal was denied, and an online petition was launched calling for that policy to change and for federal officials to make an “exceptional ruling” on behalf of the child.

Sadly, this story has become political with Kathleen Sebelius at center of storm.  Secretary Sebelius called the case “agonizing” but said she could not interfere with the donor rules.

Midweek, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that Sarah is eligible to receive a lung from the adult donor list.  The judge ordered Sebelius to suspend the donor rules for at least 10 days and a hearing is set for June 14.

With that door open, the family of 11-year-old Javier Acosta has subsequently been granted a temporary injunction to waive the rule.

My thoughts and prayers are with Sarah and Javier and their families but I think this raises a bigger question about organ donation in the United States.

If the issue is not enough lungs and kidneys and hearts and corneas,  how do we get more?

Two words: Opt Out.

Opt IN is the current national US policy. It requires explicit consent from the donor (given through a donor card administered by the DMV) or from relatives if the donor failed to indicate desire during his or her lifetime.

Let’s reverse that.

A national Opt OUT system would presume consent of the deceased to have their organs harvested unless they had opted out.

No one is taking your organs without consent.  But if you say nothing, you’ll be presumed to have opted in.

The system has been tested in Europe.

As of 2010, 24 European countries have some form of the Opt OUT  system–which some call “presumed consent”–with Spain, Austria, and Belgium yielding high donor rates.

Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone, agrees:

“Your organs aren’t going to do you much good when you’re dead…I think we’d get more donors if we just shifted the responsibility to say what you want to do about donation from saying “I want to do it” to having to say “I don’t want to do it.”  Most people say they do want to donate, so why don’t we make that the default?”

Opt Out.  Why not indeed?

Video: Smerconish: We need a national ‘opt out’ system

  1. Closed captioning of: Smerconish: We need a national ‘opt out’ system

    >>> let me finish tonight with this. in a week of nsa and dn a&m lb, a 10-year-old girl has captured national and world attention. sarah is dying of sis stick fine broe sis in the philadelphia hospital. she's been waiting for a lung transplant for a year and a half and now they say she has a week or two left, if that. she's been waiting to are a transparent from a pediatric donor, of which there are few. her parents requested that sarah be placed on the adult lung transplant list. that was declined and an online petition was launched calling for federal officials to make an exceptional ruling on the part of the child. sadly, secretary sebelius called the casinge agonizing. midweek, a federal judge ruled that sarah is eligible to receive a lung from the adult donor list. the judge ordered secretary sebelius to suspend the donor rules for at least ten days and a hearing has been set for june 14. with that door open, the family of 11-year-old javier acosta has been granted a temporary injunction to waive the rule. my thoughts are with the families and this raises a bigger question about organ donation in the united states . if the issue is not enough lungs and hearts and kidneys and corneas? how do we get more? two words, opt out. see, opt in is the current national u.s. policy. it requires explicit consent from the donor, given through a donor card administered by the dmv for from relatives if the donor failed to indicate desire during her lifetime. let's reverse that. a national opt out system would presume consent of the deceased to have their organs harvested unless they opted out. nobody's going to be taking your organs without consent but if you say nothing, you'll be presumed to have opted in. i'm not just guessing here. the system's been tested in europe as of 2010 , 24 european countries have some form of opt out, which some call presumed consent. spain, austria, and belgian yielding high donor rates. art is head of the medical ethics and he agrees, telling me, quote, your organs aren't going to do you much good when you're dead. i think we'd get much more donors if we just shifted the responsibility to say what you want to do about donation from saying i want to do it from having to say, i don't want to do it. most people say they do want to donate. so why don't we make that the default position? opt out? why not indeed?

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