Christian Longo, a prisoner on death row convicted for the murders of his wife and children, argues for the right to donate his organs after his execution by lethal injection:
“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.”
While I oppose the death penalty in general, I just want to briefly address in particular this issue of organ donation by executed prisoners.
Prisoners condemned to undergo judicial execution exist in a fundamentally coercive context. By definition, they are not free to make their own choices. Consequently, as a public policy matter, they ought not be allowed to give consent to organ removal after execution. Such consent could not be valid.
However, even assuming valid consent were possible, Longo’s suggested policy has the potential for abuse. For example, the People’s Republic of China has laws requiring consent prior to the harvesting of executed prisoners’ organs, but it is widely known that such consent is often not secured and the practice has led to a global market trafficking human organs (see, e.g., reports by Human Rights Watch).
While the length of waiting lists for organ transplants is problematic, taking organs from executed prisoners is not the answer.
Very interesting. But should the possibly of exploitation negate exploring for a middle ground. Or there is just no money for a program that might benefit others?? Or it is the domino effect of prisoners rights that would be influenced. Just think prison officials and NY R senate: a new mini-agency to monitor this, it’s like inventing little businesses within the prison industrial complex that will in turn make money supporting itself. These ideas aren’t great… I know.