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Should an Inmate on Death Row Be Allowed to Donate Organs?

posted 11/25/2013 8:03:08 PM |
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (TheBlaze/AP) — Convicted child killer Ronald Phillips was scheduled to die yesterday through execution by lethal injection. Instead, the Ohio death row inmate lives after making an eleventh-hour request to donate his organs.

The request has raised troubling moral and medical questions among transplant experts and ethicists.

Less than a day before Phillips was set to receive lethal injection, Republican Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday postponed the execution to look into Phillips’ request.

Phillips, 40, wants to give relatives a kidney before he is put to death and his heart afterward.

“I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio,” Kasich said in a statement, “but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues, then we should allow for that to happen.”

Phillips is now scheduled to receive lethal injection on July 2. Kasich said postponing the execution is meant to give medical experts time to “assess whether Phillips’ nonvital organs or tissues can be donated to his mother or possibly others,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Some medical experts and others warn that execution chemicals could render organs unusable if taken after lethal injection. They are also deeply disturbed by the prospect of death row inmates donating organs, even if can ease shortages so severe that patients die while on the waiting list.

They question whether the condemned can freely give consent, or are desperately hoping to win clemency. They worry that such practices would make judges and juries more likely to hand out death sentences. And they are troubled by the notion of using inmates for spare parts.

Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University said organ donation is incompatible with the goals of punishment.

“It’s unethical because this guy who’s being executed raped and killed a 3-year-old. When you donate your organs, there’s a kind of redemption,” Caplan said. “Punishment and organ donation don’t go well together. I don’t think the kinds of people we’re executing we want to make in any way heroic.”

“Punishment and organ donation don’t go well together.”

Yet it’s not unheard of for a death row inmate to become an organ donor.

Condemned Delaware inmate Steven Shelton was allowed to donate a kidney to his mother in 1995, though his execution wasn’t imminent.

In 1996, the Alabama Supreme Court halted David Larry Nelson’s execution so he could donate a kidney to his sick brother. His brother was too ill for surgery and later died.

Requests in other states, including Texas, have been rejected. All involved so-called live donations, never donation of a vital organ like a heart.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, said the practice raises troubling concerns.

“Once you put the person into the death row or execution category, then their life becomes less in the equation of things,” he said. “That’s a slippery slope of one life being used to save another.”

Anne Paschke, a spokeswoman for Richmond, Va.-based United Network for Organ Sharing, said in a statement that her organization’s ethics committee in 2007 deemed the practice “morally reprehensible.”

She said the committee sees extreme difficulty “in ensuring that a condemned prisoner could give proper informed consent for donation, free from any coercion or consideration of personal gain.”

Caplan said keeping vital organs viable during executions would require avoiding lethal injection, electrocution and other methods that would harm them.

Utah murderer Gary Gilmore, executed by firing squad in 1977, agreed to donate his eyes, kidneys, liver and pituitary gland for medical use. His kidneys proved unusable because of bullet wounds.

“The only way I can think of to get organs out of prisoners is to shoot them in the head or guillotine them,” Caplan said. “Are we really going to have witnessed executions of that type? I don’t think so.”

Dr. Brooks Edwards, the Rochester, Minn.-based director of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center and a transplant cardiologist, said it would be possible to use some organs after an execution, including the liver and kidney, but not the heart.

Even so, he said he is opposed to the idea, saying it could lead a judge or jury to believe that handing down a death sentence could help save another’s life.

“One would worry that the enticement of organ donation could somehow be perceived, even subconsciously, as some kind of perverse incentive. I think that’s wrong,” Edwards said. “There are certainly accusations of prisoners being executed in other countries for organ donation, and we have to be well above that.”

States such as California, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas have nonetheless considered policies promoting organ donation among inmates. Some proposals would shorten sentences in exchange for organ or bone marrow donations.

Continued in comments...

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Nov 25 @ 8:04PM  
...continued from blog.

Some transplant recipients think such donations could be a good thing.

“I don’t know who my donor is and I really don’t care,” said John Afek, a 57-year-old accountant and financial adviser in Columbus who underwent a heart transplant nearly two years ago. “It gave me my life back, and I’m a single dad with a couple kids who suddenly got their father back.”

He said an inmate’s crime shouldn’t even be a part of the conversation.

“How many people die waiting on a list?” Afek said. “If they want to do it, God bless them. We need the organs.”

Mater Alexander of Westerville said the liver she got in 2000 came from an 11-year-old girl who died after a car hit her while she was riding a bicycle.

The 62-year-old woman said that if a death row inmate’s liver had been offered to her, she is not entirely sure she would have accepted it. But she said the practice should be permitted.

Alexander sings gospel music to inmates and speaks with serious offenders in Ohio prisons about four times a year with her church to “teach them that God loves them despite what they’ve done.”

“Why not allow them to do something good before they leave this earth?” she said.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, when Phillips learned his execution was postponed to consider his bid for organ donation, his attorney Tim Sweeney said, “His first words were, ‘God is good.’”

The Blaze

Nov 25 @ 9:30PM  
Should an Inmate on Death Row Be Allowed to Donate Organs?

Why not

Nov 25 @ 10:09PM  
Two words: head shot.

Nov 25 @ 10:18PM  
One, would depend on how the inmate was executed because if it's electric chair, those organs could be "cooked".

Lethal injection......what effect on the organs does that have?

As for the argument about ethics and redemption....................what is more important? A life or someone's thinking it's "wrong"? The person donating is dead, they have no use for that organ...and if it's in good shape and there is no lingering effect of the drugs from the lethal injection (if of course that is how the inmate was executed), I don't see why they cannot be organ donors.

Bottom line....if the organs are good.....and someone is on a waiting list and that is the only donor available and to have to wait because someone thinks "this inmate will be seen as a hero or redeemed".....what is more important? That life that could be saved or someone's prejudice? Put another way..........that news story earlier this year about the 11 yr old girl with cystic fibrosis who was in desperate need of a lung transplant.....she was literally dying, and her parents were told there was an adult set of lungs that came up, but she wasn't old enough for that procedure. Her parents took it to court and won. Now, what if the only lungs available were donated from a you honestly think those parents would have let their daughter die before giving her those lungs? Would any of you out there if it were your child dying?

Nov 25 @ 11:51PM  
Each case will be handled on it's individual circumstances, and the bleeders will line up in the firm belief that they will have an easier pass to heaven in their righteousness.

During this approaching Christmas season please give thanks. Every time a bell rings another liberal goes to heaven. Please support your local Salvation Army and keep those bells ringing.

Nov 28 @ 1:13AM  
Pipe organs or electronic?


Nov 28 @ 9:28AM  
the criminal is in the mind, strip him for parts.

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Should an Inmate on Death Row Be Allowed to Donate Organs?