Should States Let Inmates Donate Organs?

| Mar 18, 2011

If a prisoner on death row wants to donate his organs, should he be allowed to do it?

The answer is "yes," according to Oregon prisoner Christian Longo, who wrote in the New York Times this month about his quest to donate his organs as a form of restitution. "There are more than 110,000 Americans on organ waiting lists," Longo wrote. "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."

Longo's attempts to become an organ donor have been rebuffed by prison officials. To advocate for his ideas, he has formed a group called G.A.V.E., or Gifts of Anatomical Value to Everyone, and has started a website,

The challenges of prisoner organ donation are many. One of the biggest is that fact that most states execute prisoners with a drug cocktail that effectively destroys their organs. Oregon,however, uses a sizable dose of barbiturate, which leaves the organs intact.

Some also worry that prisoners may be infected with HIV or hepatitis, according to Longo. While those diseases are found among prison populations, testing could screen prisoners well in advance of an execution. As Longo points out, most cases of organ donation (after someone dies in a car accident, for example) are far more rushed.

Longo has spoken to his fellow prisoners on death row. Of the 35 sentenced to die, nearly half expressed interest in becoming organ donors if they're allowed to.

"If I donated all of my organs today," Longo wrote, "I could clear nearly one percent of my state's organ waiting list. I am 37 years old and healthy. Throwing my organs away after I am executed is nothing but a waste."

No law forbids death row inmates from donating their organs. And in a country where many die without receiving a needed transplant, this prisoner's quest could mean life for many.

What do you think? Should prisoners be allowed to give their organs? If you needed an organ, would you accept one from a death row inmate? Why or why not? Write in the comments section and let us know how you feel.



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Categories: Complications & Care, Diabetes, Discrimination, Health Care, Islet & Pancreas Transplant, Kidney Care (Nephropathy), New Cure Research, The Cure, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 18 March 2011

Why not? They are kept isolated in their final days. Test them for harmful diseases. I don't see any problem letting an death row inmate do this as long as it's entirely up to the inmate. Make the option available to them. It's already a tragedy to lose another life due to a crime, let something good come from it.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 March 2011

I live in Oregon near where the bodies of his wife and beautiful children were found dead. He wants to now donate his organs? This idea is a bunch of garbage. More grandstanding by Christian Longo. I certainly wouldn't want his organs in my matter how close to dying I am. Or any other convicted felon's for that matter.

Posted by lhudson on 22 March 2011

I agree. Inmates should be allowed this last compassionate, voluntary, act of giving life to someone in need. I would accept this gift for me or my family. Medical screening for any communicable disease should of course be done as in any donor case.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 March 2011

I'm for it as long as it's the prisoner's choice. I'm designated as an organ doner on my Washington State driver's license. Yes I would accept a healthy organ or beta cells from a prisoner. And if my organs were to save a prisoner's life, fine with me.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 March 2011

Inmates should be allowed to donate organs. However, there needs to be a system in place to make sure that the inmates’ rights to continue fighting his case are not terminated early in order to get the valuable organs. This could turn into a very lucrative trade for the Bureau of Prisons. I would hate to see it become a motivating factor at sentencing. I know it sounds crazy but the organ trade is big business. There is a worldwide shortage of organs available for transplantation. In China, organs are often procured from executed prisoners. Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, estimated that 90 percent of organs from China are from deceased prisoners. China still suffers a shortage of organs for transplant even with more lax regulation. The Chinese government, after receiving severe scrutiny from the rest of the world, has passed legislation ending the legal sale of organs. However, no legislation currently prohibits the collection of organs from deceased inmates who sign agreements before execution.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 March 2011

Yes, why not allow prisoners to donate organs IF they are healthy organs with no use of any drugs.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

Of course they should be allowed to donate their organs, as long as they want to. It is a common sense issue and sometimes it is hard for people to have common sense. An organ that is good should be used.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

Yes, I feel they should be able to donate their organs. As A recepient of two donated kidneys I am very grateful. I am able to live a very productive life because of two peoples unselfish and loving attitude. I commend the prisoners for wanting to donate their organs, they could be very bitter and heartless but their not. May God bless them for thinking of others and valuing the most precious thing on earth which is human life.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

Certainly! Prisoners are screened for multiple health issues several times a year. Anything harmful to the organs would be caught and deem them ineligle. As this author points out, people who donate from car accidents do not have much time to be screened (although I know they are!). Let them donate if they choose. I see no harm in this at all! It would be excellent for them to be able to give life to so many people. I applaud them for their efforts.

Posted by SCIngram on 23 March 2011

I beleive even bad people can do good in their lifes or dead, as long as medically clear for donation - I say let them GO FOR IT.

Posted by gwolt49 on 23 March 2011

Makes sense. Why not let them post their medical info in a data base for possible matches before death?

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

Of course they should be permitted to donate their organs.This would assuming they do not have a disease that could be transmitted.

There is a dire need for healthy organs. This should be an easy YES!

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

I definitely believe inmates should be allowed to donate their organs IF THEY WANT TO. However, there should be testing and control to prevent the sale of the organs by the inmate, prevent inmate from being forced to donate, etc. What a shame to waste so many healthy organs.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2011

What's the downside? It would save countless lives. Why is there a law against it in the first place? It isn't as though we are putting people in prison just so we can put them on death row and harvest their organs. For that matter what if a prisoner isn't on death row can he be an organ donor then?

-- Curious

Posted by Anonymous on 24 March 2011

Why not? It is such a waste and if they want to become humanitarians at the end of their lives, then go ahead.

Posted by Anonymous on 31 March 2011

Tax payers spend millions of dollars keeping prisoners in good health. Why should they not be able to recoup some of the benefits and allow prisoners to give back to society?

Chances are if they are on death row, they have a certain level of fame, donating their organs won't affect that either way.

Posted by Anonymous on 7 April 2011

yes inmates should be allowed to donate organs. this would be a better idea than costing tax payers tons of money to feed and house them.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 June 2011

As a Health Care Professional I think it's a great idea for Death Row Inmates to be allowed to donate their organs,if they wish to. I would imagine for many that this would be part of a reconciliation for the damage they had prevoiusly done to others. Transplant organs are so desperately needed in the U.S. and many more lives could be saved, I feel that most people who require a transplant would take a healthy organ from anyone, not just a law abiding citizen.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 December 2011

Of COURSE their organs should be donated! This isn't an "allowed" to donate thing. You aren't GRANTING them something. You are taking what some people consider a 'waste of space, money, flesh, life, etc' and saving people's LIVES. If you are religious, his act does not 'clear' him and he will still pay for his crimes in your afterlife. For others, how sad it would be to, essentially, LET ANOTHER PERSON DIE because YOU wouldn't want his organ in your body. Somewhere there is a little girl or boy or mother or father DYING for HIS organs. All tissues are rigourously tested before use, so disease and failure are minimal. Get some use out of him. Save a lives.

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