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Lawmaker wants to allow death row inmates to donate organs

Nov. 7, 2013 at 4:07 PM   |   Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A lawmaker from Oklahoma says he is drafting legislation that would allow prison inmates on death row to donate their organs upon execution.

State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, says harvesting organs from willing inmates would help patients who need hard-to-find organs, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, reported.

Currently in Oklahoma, death row inmates are executed by lethal injection, a process that makes any donated organs unusable.

Under Dorman's plan, an inmate who opts to donate their organs upon execution would be anesthetized, have their organs removed and then be put on life support before being executed.

"I don't think it will be a tough sell," Dorman said. "I think with the strong stance that we have with members of the Legislature being pro-life, I certainly see this as a pro-life idea because you're saving lives with the actions of that prisoner seeking redemption."

Jeff Orlowski, chief executive officer of Life Share Transplant Services, which oversees the organ donation registry in Oklahoma, questioned the ethics of Dorman's plan, which allows doctors to harvest organs before the inmate is declared brain-dead.

"It completely inverts the process [by] removing the organs while the patients are still alive and then executing them," Orlowski said. "It's very much a problem."

Orlowski added that there may be some logistical problems to Dorman's plan as well.

"When we have an organ donor at a hospital, we may have surgical teams coming from California, Florida and Illinois to take individual organs they're going to take back and transplant," Orlowski said. "You have to coordinate multiple surgical teams, and to have that happen in a correctional facility, I would think would be logistically impossible."

The Oklahoma Corrections Department said funding such a program would be a strain on its budget.

"I would say at this point, we can't afford much of anything," said department spokeswoman Joyce Jackson

Dorman said he believes any associated costs of the program would be worth it.

"You can't put a price on life," Dorman said.

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