Eighteen hours before the execution of a man convicted of killing and raping a child, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) halted the order until next July to let the medical community decide whether to grant Ronald Phillips’ request to donate his organs and tissues.
“Ronald Phillips committed a heinous crime for which he will face the death penalty,” Kasich said about the unexpected decision, a first in the country. “I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues, then we should allow for that to happen.” Phillips requested to donate a kidney and his heart, as his mother and sister suffer from kidney disease and a heart condition.
The debate over whether to allow death row inmates to donate their organs is contentious. On one side, some worry it would lead to more executions, coerce prisoners to comply, and create painful executions so doctors can retrieve the organs. “Allowing condemned prisoners to donate organs could provide an inappropriate incentive to execute prisoners and could lead to significant human rights violations,” United Network for Organ Sharing’s Alexandra Glazier said Thursday. Also, “Organ donation from condemned prisoners also raises significant ethical issues about the ability of prisoners to provide coercion-free consent.”
On the other side, there are nearly 100,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney and only 19,000 transplants performed in 2013.
Before Kasich stayed the execution, prison officials had denied the request because, “the department is not equipped to facilitate organ donation pre- or post-execution.” If Phillips is a viable donor, then Ohio would require him or the organ recipient to pay for the transplant surgery.
His execution was also to be the first to use a new unregulated combination of lethal drugs, which would have an unknown effect on the organs.