By Dave Warner
NEWTOWN SQUARE Pa. (Reuters) - A U.S. group that sets policy for organ transplants voted on Monday to adopt a permanent rule to allow some children access to adult lungs.
Lawsuits brought by parents to have their dying children added to the adult waiting list touched off a national debate last year over how a scarce, life-saving resource of organs should be allocated to those under 12 years old.
Last year, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network granted a temporary exception to the rule, following a lawsuit brought by the parents of Sarah Murnaghan, 11, who demanded their child be added to the adult transplant list. On Monday, the group's board of directors made that change permanent.
"Any allocation policy must weigh the unique needs and circumstances of transplant candidates with the benefit a transplant can provide them," Stuart Sweet, secretary of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network's board of directors, said in a statement.
Murnaghan, who became the public face of the national debate around transplant policy and has been doing well since her successful transplant last year, celebrated the ruling outside her Pennsylvania home on Monday.
"You should try hard, because you should not give up where it is possible," she told reporters.
Asked what advice she would give to others, Murnaghan said: "They should do the same thing I did - just push through it and it will turn out good in the end."
The network said they would continue evaluating possible policy changes for young patients that need transplants. It added that the main problem facing transplant candidates, however, is a lack of available organs.
(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Eric Beech)