Blogs » On the Docket » Should death row inmates be allowed to donate their organs?


The Texas Tribune asked today whether death row inmates should be allowed to donate their organs.

What an interesting question - to say the least.

On one hand, a policy allowing this could speed up the process for at least a few of the estimated 11,000 Texans that the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance says are waiting on transplants. And every second could count.

But at what cost?

Some experts say - besides the fact it would be really cringe-worthy to be toting a serial killer's liver - it could maybe change the outcome of sentencings. Jurors, for example, could opt to give an offender the death penalty instead of a life sentence, maybe thinking their choice was in some way creating something good out of a bad situation, such as helping someone ill.

Doctors meanwhile say its just too ethically complicated to perform such a procedure, especially in a small space like a death chamber, where it's clear no efforts are being made to save the individual's life, something the Organ Alliance says must happen beforehand.

Not to mention how some inmates may be infected with diseases. Of the 126,692 tests the Texas Department of Criminal Justice administered on its 156,088 inmates in 2009, 2,453 were HIV positive and 838 had AIDS.

It seems like only a year ago Texas was debating something on the other end of the spectrum - whether or not to end death row inmates' last meals.

This came after Lawrence Brewer ordered two chicken fried steaks, smothered in gravy with sliced onions; a triple meat bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions and jalapeƱos; a large bowl of fried okra with ketchup; a pound of BBQ with a half loaf of white bread; fajitas and Blue Bell Homemade Ice Cream and did not eat anything.

Brandon Scott, a reporter whom I worked with in college, was on the front lines of this story, having witnesses Brewer's execution for the Huntsville Item. Brewer was convicted in the 1998 dragging death of a black man named James Byrd, Jr.

Scott quoted an upset Sen. John Whitmire, who was fed up with the practice that's become somewhat of a morbid fascination for the public:

"It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege - one which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim."

TDCJ agreed and ended it.

I know these two issues are very different, but what do you think about death row inmates donating organs?

TDCJ permits it now in the general prison population in certain cases and said they have no plans to revise their policy regarding death row inmates, the Tribune reports.

Also, do you think last meals should be reinstated?