The Conversation

Ace is Right, and so is Kathleen Sebelius, on Sarah Murnaghan

In response to Sarah Murnaghan Will Almost Certainly Get Her Lung Transplant, And That's A Problem:

Ace of Spades is correct to be worried about the way in which Sarah Murnaghan was moved onto the adult list for lung transplants--ahead of all of the other boys and girls on the children's list, and potentially ahead of some adults as well. 

Ace gets right to the heart of the problem: someone else, possibly more deserving, may die while Sarah Murnaghan is saved. 

The execrable Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is wrong about so many things, happens to be right on this issue: she should not have the power to intervene at all.

The problem here is not Obamacare. It is the scarcity of available organs. An independent non-profit agency maintains a scientific set of criteria that determines who gets organs when they become available. The process is supposed to be isolated from the pressures of politics, celebrity and sensational media coverage.

Sometimes, people try to corrupt the system. That is what happened in Chicago hospitals in the 1990s--and my father happens to be the transplant surgeon who blew the whistle. You can read the whole story here.

The problem with cases like Sarah Murnaghan's is that they actually discourage organ donation because they convince the public that politicians, journalists and other powerful people control the process. That is a particularly acute problem in the black community, where there is a huge shortage of donors, partly because black families do not trust the hospitals to do what is right with their recently deceased loved one's organs.

The sad irony, then, of the hysteria around Sarah Murnaghan's plight is that it may create more Sarah Murnaghans. I understand the concern that people like Sebelius are going to be making more and more life-and-death decisions under Obamacare and the Independent Payments Advisory Board. But the organ issue is one area where the government has already constrained its own power--and Sebelius, wisely, obeyed.

Yuval Levin, a staunch opponent of Obamacare, has a similar take at National Review Online.


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