A kidney for freedom?
Some South Carolina lawmakers have come up with a unique idea to deal with the chronic shortage of organ donors. They want to allow prison inmates in their state to donate organs or bone marrow in return for a reduction in their sentences.
Their hearts were certainly in the right place when they proposed this legislation, but to be frank, this is a terrible, terrible idea.
Under the bill, approved by the Senate Corrections and Penology Subcommittee, a volunteer donor program would be set up in South Carolina prisons to teach inmates about the need for donations. Inmates who donate organs would receive a 180-day reduction in their sentences.
There's no question that there is a need for organ donors in this country. According to the Web site OrganDonor.gov, more than 95,000 people are waiting for organs. Each day 77 people receive transplants, but 19 die because of a shortage of donated organs.
If inmates willingly want to donate organs with no expectation of anything in return, we would applaud their decision. But we find the idea of inmates trading their organs for their freedom to be disturbing. It's creepily reminiscent of the Chinese practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners.
Thirteen years ago, Human Rights Watch reported that up to 3,000 organs, mainly kidneys and corneas, were being taken from executed prisoners in China each year without their consent. As recently as 2006, Great Britain warned potential transplant patients from going to China because the organs might be coming from freshly executed prisoners.
We hope South Carolina lawmakers will rethink this proposal. There's the possibility that it might even violate a federal law which makes it illegal to give organ donors a "valuable consideration."
We think this is an all-round bad piece of legislation.