Death-row & the fight to be organ donors

human organ for transplant
Kyla Herrmannsen

In 2010, convicted and confessed murderer, Christan Longo, embarked on a campaign from within prison to challenge the notion that inmates on death row in Oregon cannot be organ donors.

In his application to prison authorities he said, “I am 37 years old and healthy; throwing my organs away after I am executed is nothing but a waste.” But, prison authorities rejected his application, saying “The interests of the public and condemned inmates are best served by denying the petition.”

However, Longo argues that there is a dire need for organ donors throughout America and that “just one inmate could save up to eight lives by donating a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other transplantable tissues.”

Other death-row inmates have raised similar arguments. Ronald Phillips, a death-row inmate in Ohio, incarcerated for raping and killing his girlfriend’s three year old daughter, requested to donate his kidney to his mother and his heart to his sister before being given the lethal injection. His request has sparked nation-wide debate and has consequently delayed his execution – which has been provisionally moved to July 2014 in lieu of a decision being made by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Dennis McGuirre, a death-row inmate in Ohio also applied to become an organ donor ahead of his execution. But, McGuirre’s application was turned down and he was criticised for simply using the organ donor application as a ruse to delay his inevitable lethal injection. Governor John Kasich reportedly turned down the request because McGuirre failed to fulfil the legal requirement of identifying a family member in need of a specific organ.

Read more on whether death-row inmates should be allowed to donate organs:

New York Times op-ed column written by Longo: Giving Life After Death Row

Considering Death Row for Organs

Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone

Organ Donation Request Delays Child Killer’s Execution

Organ Offer Delays Ronald Phillips Execution


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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