Children in the womb aren’t the only ones at the mercy of anti-life forces. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to waive organ transplant rules for 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who was dying from cystic fibrosis and in desperate need of new lungs.
Despite doctors’ predictions that Sarah could survive the sometimes-dangerous practice of transplanting adult lungs to children (which is the justification for the regulation in question), and the certainty that she would have died within three to five weeks anyway, Sebelius chillingly replied that while it’s “an incredibly agonizing situation where someone lives and someone dies,” rules are rules.
Fortunately, Sarah’s parents successfully obtained a judge’s ruling ordering that she be added to the adult list, and earlier today, we learned that new lungs had become available, and Sarah is undergoing an operation as we speak.
Why on earth was this ever a question? Medical authorities attested to the procedure’s potential for success. Sarah’s death would have been guaranteed without it, making the regulation’s purpose inapplicable. Nor was special treatment on the table:
Sebelius says she doesn’t want to intervene in the transplant case when other sick children are dying, but Sarah’s family says they want the policy changed for all children awaiting a lung transplant, not just Sarah.
Former U.S. Attorney and current Pennsylvania U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan has reviewed the federal policy and has stated that because Sarah’s doctors believe she will survive the transplant, Sebelius could make an exception to the existing federal regulation “without upsetting precedent or violating the consistency of allocation policy.” He also wrote in a letter to the Secretary that: “Sarah is not asking to be placed ahead of another, but rather she is petitioning for the ability to compete for equitable treatment based on sound medical judgment and that she be accorded her appropriate place in line. Her need and survivability are the critical factors.”
Sebelius’s callousness is reminiscent of an especially creepy incident from the early months of her boss’s presidency. During a 2009 event pushing Barack Obama’s health care boondoggle, a listener relayed the story of her 100-year-old mother’s difficulty obtaining a pacemaker, then asked what her odds would have been under ObamaCare:
STURM: Outside the medical criteria for prolonging life for someone who is elderly, is there a consideration that can be given for a certain spirit, a certain joy of living, and quality of life, or is it just a medical cutoff at a certain age?
OBAMA: […] I don’t think that we can make judgments based on peoples’ spirit. That would be a pretty subjective decision to be making […] we’re not going to solve every difficult problem in terms of end-of-life care. A lot of that is going to have to be, we as a culture and as a society starting to make better decisions within our own families and for ourselves. But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that’s not making anybody’s mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isn’t going to help. Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.
The devaluing of human life will go hand-in-hand with the increased centralization of our health care system. As government intrudes on more aspects of decisions traditionally made between patients and doctors (hey, where have I head that before?), medicine will become increasingly impersonal, slavishly devoted to abstract rules at the expense of individual circumstances, and subject to ever-increasing pressure to reduce costs – a deadly combination.
Worst of all, it’s going to be administered by politicians and bureaucrats who think nothing of killing a human baby for convenience. Abortion has cheapened a frightening percentage of the political class’s reverence for the sanctity of life, and when paired with socialized medicine, it’s going to create a mutually reinforcing cycle of desensitization to needless death.
It’s yet another reason why everyone should be concerned about abortion – when inhumane values are afforded political respect, they never stay confined to a single issue.