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Could Death Row Inmates Be a Viable Source for Organ Donation?

By arogers1119 Sep 03, 2013 1703 Words

Could Death Row Inmates be a Viable Source for Donated Organs? Angela Rogers
Ottawa University

There is a high demand for organs and a shortage of donors in the US. We need to find a way to bridge the gap. Most Americans are wary of donating organs so why not allow convicted felons to do some good with the organs that they have? Death row inmates could be a viable source of transplantable organs. To discourage exploitation of death row inmates there should be provisions made and guidelines followed, but nevertheless they should be allowed to donate. Supply and Demand

According to the OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) there are 115,720 people on the waiting list for organs; everything from kidney, liver, heart to lungs and many more. There are some waiting for multiple organs. From January to June of this year 2012; there were 13,963 donors 11,087of those were deceased. (OPTN) The OPTN has pre-transplant data which pertains to transplant candidate on the waiting list, donor/recipient matching, deceased and living donors, histocompatibility, and potential recipients. (OPTN) Every time a person wants to be put on the waiting list they fill out an electronic form and it then goes into the data bank. It has things like age, gender, acceptable donor characteristics, and ABO blood group. These are the things the computer looks for in the match run. (OPTN) The match run part comes when a deceased donor becomes available. The computer compares donor information with transplant candidate characteristics stored on the waiting list. (OPTN) Donors submit their information on a deceased donor registration and living donor registration form. After each deceased donor organ is allocated there is a form to partial rank in ordered listing of potential recipients. (OPTN) For each organ transplanted there is post-transplant data that has to be collected at six months, one year and annually after that Time to Transplant Organ

There are twenty-five transplantable organs in the human body. Except for one kidney and part of the liver. Most organs can only come from a deceased donor due to the fact the person cannot live without a heart or other vital organs needed to survive. Most donors are accident victims. So you never know when there will be a donor available. When a dead donor is available the transplantation process has to be done within a short period for the organ to continue to be useful for the recipient. This is one of the major reasons that death row inmates would make an excellent donor. Their time of death will be precise and planned. The recipient can be waiting in the wings to receive the organ and the success rate will be on the rise for implantations. People Saved

One healthy condemned inmate could potentially save at least eight adults by providing two kidneys, two lungs, a heart, liver, pancreas, and small intestine. (Gekker 2012) There were fifty-two felons executed in 2009 in the US, that’s potentially four hundred and sixteen people that could have been saved. (Perales 2002) This is just an estimate and some could have not been fit to be donors or had some medical condition or disease. If even half could have donated that would have been two hundred and eight lives saved. Even if some of them would have volunteered some saved lives are better than none at all. People who want to Donate

Though some argue that death row inmates are monsters and uncaring individuals this is not always the case. There are two individuals that actually tried to donate and even went to court over it. First is Jonathan Nobles, he was convicted of stabbing and killing two women in Austin in their early twenties after breaking into their home in 1986. He wanted to “do something positive after bringing so much darkness into this world” he said. The prison system says they were worried that what if he donates a kidney and the other one fails then he gets a stay of execution? Jack Kevorkian tried to arrange the donation of one of Nobles’ kidneys and found a surgeon to perform the transplant. But Nobles and the women was not a blood-type match and she died without getting a transplant. The woman’s sister says “he brought death to two women the least he can do is give lift to somebody else. I mean they’re putting these men to death anyway. Why can’t they just put them to sleep and take their organs?” (Abilene 1998) The second case was of a man named Christian Longo who wants to donate his organs if he is executed. He was convicted of killing his wife and three children in 2001. He feels like they would just be throwing away his organs and that they could be saving other lives instead. (Persky 2012) He also has been trying to set up a pro-inmate donation organization called Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone or G.A.V.E. There has not been an inmate that has been able to donate to a non-relative to date. There are many other examples of inmates that want to give maybe because they want to give back for their sins or maybe it’s because they have family that needs either way it seems they could save a life. Inmates that have Donated

There have been several inmates that have donated to their relatives. This is legal and has happened on several occasions. First example is Steven Shelton from Delaware. He donated a kidney to his mother in 1995. (Bioethics) Next there was David Patterson in 1998 was convicted felon serving thirteen years in California and donated a kidney to his daughter in 1996. This kidney failed and was willing to donate the second kidney by the prison would have been responsible for the payment of his dialysis treatments and said no. (Bioethics) In 1998, a “Life for a Life” program was introduced to representative of the Missouri legislature by Rep. Chuck Graham. The bill would have commuted death row inmates’ sentences to life without parole if they agreed to donate a kidney or bone marrow, but it was not passed. (Bioethics) There were ethical concerns and opposition from organ procurement groups. Reasons to oppose organ donation

There are some reasons that organ donations by death row inmates are opposed and they range from the high-risk environment that prisoners actually live with to infectious diseases to the way that they are executed. The testing for infectious disease is not 100% accurate but it is greater than 98%. (G.A.V.E) The current lethal injection protocols are new today they are not the old school lethal injection that destroys all the organs and blood. Most states have adopted the new one-drug protocol which preserves organ viability. (G.A.V.E) Accepting organ donation by inmates

As long as the body is put to sleep the organs can be salvaged. There would not be any chemical abuse to the organs there wouldn’t be any electrical shock that would fry the organs and they would be viable to be transplantable. This would be a human way to be put to death and to save lives at the same time. Perales states, “The inmates’ organs would undergo the same stringent testing as any other organs procured from traditional donors before being transplanted.” Physicians and their Code of Ethics

Death by organ removal does create ethical issues for physicians. They are prohibited in participating in executions by the American Medical Association (AMA) they have the Hippocratic Oath and the dead donor rule that they must follow as well. (Perales, 2002) However with the “death by organ removal” method they can be allowed to remove organs and still fulfill their professional standard. If a patient died from brain death after anesthesia they would not be violating their professional code. (Perales, 2002) Physicians would not have to do this step of the procedure therefore; they would not be in violation of the Hippocratic Oath. (Perales, 2002) After brain death is pronounced the doctor may then remove the organs from the body. So this would solve all ethical dilemmas for a physician. CONCLUSION

Though there are ethical issues involved with harvesting organs from death row inmates there are lives at stake. If inmates want to give back lives to redeem themselves why not let them? There are several reasons not to let this go on but there is one main reason to give in and that is LIFE. If one life can be saved by someone who took a life and he/she wants to consent to it then let it be his/her dying wish. As numerous lives continue to end and the death penalty continues to persist why haven’t we come to the conclusion that donated death row inmate organs can save these lives? These inmates should have the freedom to donate if they wish. This has shown how many lives can be saved and through the G.A.V.E. group. There are numerous inmates that have shown they want to give back. It has been proven there is an ethical and humane way to preserve and test the organ to make sure they can be used.

Abilene Reporter-News/ E.E. Scripps. Publ. (1998) Prison officials won’t let death row inmates donate organs. Retrieved from G.A.V.E. Prisoner organ donation. (2012). From Willing Inmates. Retrieved from
Gekker, Elena (2012). Letting life spring from death row. Retrieved from http:
Indiana University Center for Bioethics. (2009). Death Row Organ Donation. Reference Center.
Retrieved from Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. (2012). 9/14/2012 statistics Perales, D.J. (2002). Rethinking the prohibition of death row prisoners as organ donors: A

Possible lifeline to those on organ donor waiting lists. St Mary’s Law Journal, 34(3)
Retrieved from
Persky, A. S. (2012) Life from Death Row: Inmates want to donate organs, but state disagrees.
Retrieved from

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