Copying China: harvesting organs from inmates


Richard Moore

Original source URLs:,1,1200679.story

    Inmates Could Trade an Organ for an Early Out
    By Jenny Jarvie
    The Los Angeles Times
    Friday 09 March 2007

They also could donate marrow under a South Carolina lawmaker's plan. Critics 
condemn the idea.

Atlanta - Prison inmates in South Carolina could get up to six months shaved off
their sentences if they donated a kidney or their bone marrow, under a proposed 
bill before the state Senate.

"We have a lot of people dying as they wait for organs, so I thought about the 
prison population," said state Sen. Ralph Anderson, the bill's main sponsor. "I 
believe we have to do something to motivate them. If they get some good time 
off, if they get out early, that's motivation."

The proposal was approved Thursday by the Senate Corrections and Penology 

But it is almost certain to prompt fierce opposition from legal experts and 
prisoner rights advocates about whether inmates are able to make such a decision

"For a prisoner to actually have a benefit for giving up an organ violates every
ethical value I'm aware of," said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of law at 
Georgetown University Law Center and chairman of the Institute of Medicine's 
committee on human subject research in prisoners. "It's grossly unethical, if 
not unlawful," he said. The institute is part of the National Academy of 

Legislators said they would not debate the measure until they established 
whether exchanging prison time for body parts violates federal law. Under 
current law, it is illegal to exchange an organ for "valuable consideration." 
Lawmakers are attempting to determine whether a reduced sentence constitutes a 

"Getting out of prison early is more valuable than money," Gostin said. "That's 
your freedom."

Even without the incentive of reduced prison time, Gostin said, the proposal 
would be unethical because prisoners have little autonomy and live in highly 
coercive environments. Federal law, for example, prohibits inmates from entering
clinical trials of drugs under development even if they have cancer or AIDS, 
because their confinement could cause them to make a decision they might not 
otherwise make.

Anderson said his organ donation program would impose comprehensive oversight.

"We would check that this was voluntary and they had all the information," he 
said. "It would not be forced upon them."

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 95,300
Americans are awaiting an organ transplant, and about 6,700 die every year 
before an appropriate organ is found.

Under the program, the state's Department of Corrections would decide which 
inmates could donate. Money for medical procedures and any prison guard overtime
would be paid by the organ recipient and charitable organizations.

"America has a major healthcare crisis," Anderson said. "I believe this would 
save money, improve the quality of healthcare and save a whole bunch of lives."

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