Should A Death-Row Inmate Be Allowed To Donate Organs?

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Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die by a new lethal injection drug. (Ohio Department of Corrections via AP)
Ronald Phillips wants his organs donated to his mother and sister after his execution. (Ohio Department of Corrections via AP)

A decision by Ohio Governor John Kasich to delay the execution of a convicted child rapist and murderer, so the state can study his request to donate organs to his sick mother and sister, is raising ethical concerns among doctors, patients and even the national Organ Sharing network.

While there is some precedent — a convicted Delaware inmate donated a kidney to his mother in 1995 — organ donations by inmates are generally not allowed in the United States.

In a statement earlier this week, Kasich said that it should be allowed if "another life can be saved" by the inmate's willingness to donate organs.

But physicians and medical ethicists say allowing donations by inmates is as impractical and unethical. They question whether a death row inmate can make proper informed consent, whether inmates will use donations as a way to gain leniency and whether juries will begin to view death sentences as a way of procuring scarce organs.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with bioethicist Art Caplan, who writes: "getting organs from an executed prisoner is both impractical and immoral."


This segment aired on November 15, 2013.


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