Ronald Phillips was supposed to die today in Ohio, sentenced to be executed for raping and killing a 3-year-old girl. He made an unexpected last-minute request: to donate his organs after execution. His attorney said in a letter that it wasn't a delaying tactic but an attempt to "do a charitable act," reported the Associated Press. Phillips' own mother could be a potential beneficiary of such charity. She is on dialysis for kidney disease.
Prison officials initially rejected the request because it was made so late they couldn't accommodate him. But Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced that the state will delay the execution until July in order to determine if organ donation is a possibility. The Columbus Dispatch reported:
Kasich's action is unprecedented in the nation in the case of an imminent execution, a death-penalty expert said.
The Republican governor said he halted Phillips' execution "so that medical experts can assess whether Phillips' nonvital organs or tissues can be donated to his mother or possibly others."
"Ronald Phillips committed a heinous crime for which he will face the death penalty," Kasich said in a statement less than 18 hours before the condemned man was to be lethally injected using two drugs never before used in combination. "I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues, then we should allow for that to happen."
The governor said if Phillips "is found to be a viable donor to his mother or possibly others awaiting transplants of nonvital organs, such as kidneys, the procedures would be performed and then he would be returned to Death Row to await his new execution date."
A commenter at the Dispatch noted the connection between what may happen to Phillips and the "Known Space" sci-fi works of author Larry Niven, where the Earth's government used condemned criminals for organ replacements, ultimately leading to a repressive society where every crime was made a capital crime (for the sake of my future as a presidential candidate, I haven't read these works myself and am taking the explanation from Wikipedia).
Fortunately, given where real science is actually heading with bioengineering and 3D-printing new body parts, we won't likely be descending into Niven's scenario.
More Reason on organ donations, and the restrictive regulations that result in a governor hoping to get a condemned man's kidneys, here.