For organ transplants, there is nationally recognized criteria in determining who qualifies for the life-saving surgeries.

Recently, a judge intervened in the process by granting two small children lung transplants that they probably would have otherwise been denied.

The decision by the judge was a compassionate one. Obviously seeing the children in their fragile state was heartbreaking.

What the judge did, though, has set off widespread debate and argument about whether the legal process should supercede medical criteria for transplants.

Frankly, what the judge did is set a dangerous precedent. While it's true that he probably saved the lives of those two youngsters, is it proper for emotion to surpass a working method of determining healthcare priorities?

Was the judge really qualified to determine if the youngsters were the right choices for those lung transplants? Shouldn't this be up to the medical profession?

Nobody knows who would have gotten the lungs that went to those young children. But isn't it possible that someone else died - someone waiting much longer for transplants - because those lungs were no longer available?

Getting on the transplant list is a complex process. It involves major testing both medically and psychologically. There is criteria for priority.

It's unfortunate that there are not enough transplant organs to go around and satisfy the demand. Great strides are being made for manufacturing more artificial organs.

One thing anyone can do is become an organ donor when they die. All they have to do is specify this when they renew or obtain their drivers' licenses.

It's amazing all the organs that can be transplanted today: Hearts, livers, kidneys, just to name a few.

Transplants save many lives.

It's because of the shortages of organs that criteria has to be established on who receives them. It's not up to judges or lawyers or even individual doctors to determine who qualifies for the transplants. It's the pre-established list that determines - and must continue to prioritize - recipients.

Hopefully the debate will evolve quickly into established rules regarding transplants. Those rules must state that judges must not interfere with the established process.

Maybe the current process could be tweaked. But not by any judge.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]