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Girl's ordeal spurs temporary change to lung transplant policy for kids

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From Jason Carroll and Yon Pomrenze

The organization that oversees national transplant policies has approved a one-year change that makes children younger than 12 eligible for priority on adult lung transplant lists, the group announced Monday.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network's executive committee approved the change in a conference call. It said in a statement that doctors may submit a request to a national review board to have a child who is younger than 12 put on a list for older patients.

The board has seven days to approve the request, taking into account the child's lung allocation score.

The policy change is valid until July 2014, when it will be re-evaluated.

The temporary exception stems from a case filed by the family of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who has cystic fibrosis and needs new lungs. A federal junction last week ordered U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to tell the OPTN to set aside the rule, but the injunction was good for only 10 days.

"We consider this a tremendous win for Sarah and all kids waiting for lungs," her mother, Janet, said in a statement on Facebook. "I hope Sarah's story moves people to become organ donors, because more than any ruling it is the heroes who donate their organs that save lives."

A spokeswoman for the Murnaghan family told CNN on Monday night that her lung allocation score has gone from 78 to 91 in the past four days. Anything above 60 is considered a high score, according to reports published on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network website.

Sarah could die within weeks without a transplant, her parents have said.

The Philadelphia girl has been waiting 18 months at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for another pair of lungs as her ability to breathe has rapidly deteriorated. Adult lungs are far more available than lungs from children, and doctors have said they believe modified adult lungs might save the girl's life.

The United Network for Organ Sharing, which operates the transplant network, said in a statement that 30 of the 1,659 people on the list of people waiting for lungs are 10 or younger.

Another patient at the hospital, 11-year-old Javier Acosta, is also waiting for new lungs. In a separate case, a judge on Thursday also granted an injunction allowing him to be put on the 12 and older transplant list.

CNN's Chris Welch contributed to this story.

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