Should Death Row Inmates Be Allowed to Donate Their Organs?


Before Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on the death penalty last year, death row inmate Christian Longo argued to allow the condemned to donate their organs. Longo said a new execution protocol many states have adopted leaves inmates' organs viable for transplantation. “While I can potentially help in saving one life with a kidney donation now, one preplanned execution can additionally save from 6 to 10 more lives,” Longo wrote. Oregon denied his plea, reports the Texas Tribune. No state allows death row inmates to donate organs. Experts say that the idea of recovering organs from willing convicted murderers is fraught with moral, ethical and medical challenges that make it unlikely to be an option.

“It's complicated in ways that are very messy and very fuzzy,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. The Texas Criminal Justice Department allows offenders in the general prison population to donate organs, such as kidneys, while they are alive in certain cases and after death if they complete a donor form. The prospect of death row organ donation raises questions, said Dr. David Orentlicher of the Hall Center for Law and Health and Indiana University law school. Is an inmate giving free and informed consent, or is he hoping to win favorable treatment? Would a donation affect jurors who are weighing the death penalty versus life sentences? Or prosecutors deciding whether to seek the death penalty? Or governors deciding whether to grant clemency?

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