Should Death Row Inmates Be Allowed to Donate Organs?


Yes. Christian Longo, who was convicted of (and admits to) killing his wife and three children in Oregon, offers a persuasive case for allowing death row inmates to donate their organs in an op/ed in the Sunday New York Times

I spend 22 hours a day locked in a 6 foot by 8 foot box on Oregon's death row. There is no way to atone for my crimes, but I believe that a profound benefit to society can come from my circumstances. I have asked to end my remaining appeals, and then donate my organs after my execution to those who need them. But my request has been rejected by the prison authorities.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 110,000 Americans on organ waiting lists. Around 19 of them die each day. There are more than 3,000 prisoners on death row in the United States, and just one inmate could save up to eight lives by donating a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other transplantable tissues.

There is no law barring inmates condemned to death in the United States from donating their organs, but I haven't found any prisons that allow it. The main explanation is that Oregon and most other states use a sequence of three drugs for lethal injections that damages the organs. But Ohio and Washington use a larger dose of just one drug, a fast-acting barbiturate that doesn't destroy organs. If states would switch to a one-drug regimen, inmates' organs could be saved.

I can't remember right off the top of my head, but there is a pretty good sci fi novel (or two) in which minor offenses are turned into capital crimes in order to supply the organ market. Certainly must guard against that.

In any case, read the whole NYT op/ed here