Human Exceptionalism

Wrong to Take Organs from Condemned Man

I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I think it is wrong to allow a condemned man to donate non vital organs before executing him. From the Reuters story:

Ohio Governor John Kasich on Wednesday stayed the execution of convicted killer Ronald Phillips to assess whether Phillips’s non-vital organs or tissues can be donated to his mother or possibly others. Phillips, 40, was scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 1993 murder of 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans. But Kasich granted a stay until July 2 to allow medical experts to assess whether Phillips’s non-vital organs or tissues can be donated to his mother or others.

“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,” Kasich said in a statement.

Kasich’s statement is the usual ad hoc slouching we see these days that opens the door to unethical acquiescence.

Here’s the problem: The requested donation must be judged in the context in which it was made. This is not a truly freely chosen action. But for being condemned to die, there is no indication that he would have been willing to donate. 

If we are to have a death penalty–and I don’t want to get into that question here–we should not allow execution to be tied to a utilitarian benefit for society. And that is precisely what is happening here.

Update: Bioethicist Art Caplan agrees. 

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