Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sebelius is right not to take immediate action in lung transplant case.

Making headlines this week is the story of a young girl who needs a lung transplant as soon as possible. But the realities of the situation are thus- child-size lungs do not become available very often. And the transplant list rules and regulations do not get her access to adult lungs.
The family (rightfully) took to the media to help their daughter out. And they petitioned the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to override the rules, and direct the transplant organization, UNOS, to give their daughter lungs.
A lot of right-wing types are calling Sebelius a "one-woman death panel" for her choice to not jump and do.
The case has now gone to U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson who wrote in a temporary restraining order that by refusing to set aside the existing rule for children, Sebelius had failed “to protect the very few children nationally who are subject to it.” He added that the evidence showed that the rule “discriminates against children and serves no purpose, is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” Baylson, a George W. Bush appointee, scheduled a hearing for June 14.
Sebelius now has 10 days to either issue a directive, or not do anything.
Here is why she would be right not to do anything-
(and shame on anyone who considers themselves a defender of the Constitution for not seeing it this way)
First and foremost, precedent. We cannot have a cabinet secretary determining who lives and dies. If she says yes in this scenario, what happens when another family needs a transplant next week? An appointed cabinet secretary is an incredibly political position.  She (and/or any of her successors) does everyone justice by not allowing herself to become a "death panel." Her job is of such a highly political nature that it is only a matter of time, nay minutes, until campaign favors, bribes, etc. become a question in transplants.
I think it goes without saying that absolutely nobody wants to see transplants become a political topic!
Transplants, above all other issues, should remain an incredibly fair, honest, and transparent decision. And that is absolutely why it was right to make this situation go through a judge.
I know many people cannot help but feel compassion and want to override "the system" to help out a dying girl. No one can be blamed for that.
But right now this little girl does have some more time. She needs the lungs, but she has a few more weeks. And that is why it is right to let this play out in courts. Judges have the right to feel compassion, recognize a bad law, and make the appropriate change so that it sets precedent that can help others.
(It also protects any medical professional who may help the girl if she gets the lungs. Otherwise, a directive from a political authority may or may not open up the door to a lawsuit from a different family who needed the lungs, but didn't get them because they went to the girl. That lawsuit could easily involve the doctors.)
Let this play out in the courts so that the right thing can be done not just for the little girl, but for all transplant patients down the road. No one is arguing that it is a bad regulation that needs to be fixed. So let's let it get fixed the proper way, and not in a way that could create further problems down the road.

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