Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Transaction to Die For

Have you heard the one about the death-row inmate who wants to delay his execution so he can donate his liver to his dying sister?

Here's the punch-line: Dr. Mark Fox, chairman for the ethics committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing is concerned about the donor's ability to give "informed consent".

Dr. Fox said, "The lives (of prisoners) are constrained in ways that yours and mine are not. Free, informed consent involves the freedom to either accept or to reject treatments that are being proposed."

"The fact that the donation could prolong his own life," the good doctor continued, "could compromise an inmate's decision-making ability.

"Neither (the inmate nor his sister) may feel they have the complete freedom to make the decision that is appropriate for them," Fox said.

It sometimes amazes me how people, especially educated people, can take a simple issue and analyze it to death; twisting it and turning it until it is no longer simple, no longer recognizable.

The inmate is going to die. Offering his liver serves two purposes: it prolongs his life by a few weeks and it saves his sister's life. What does it matter which of those is his primary motive. And how much informed consent must one have to make such an offer.

Are organ donations accepted only if the givers' motives are purely altruistic? This is a deal on which the most pragmatic of observers can agree.


In 1998 a Texas death row inmate's request for a stay of execution in order to donate a kidney was denied. One of the concerns was that the inmate might die during the operation.

Only in Texas.


At May 24, 2005 9:16 PM, Blogger invadesoda said...

Organ donation looks like a win-win to me. Glad to see you posting again!


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