Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in...

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…

One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.

I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.

I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution.  Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment”  Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.

 

3 thoughts on “Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

  1. I do not think condemned criminals should be able to specify relatives or anybody else that their organs could be donated to. That being said, considering the shortfall of organs available in the USA and the very long waiting lists for some organs, why not allow criminals to donate them? Stem cell research as a method to clone viable organs is a long way off. Most mainstream religions do not oppose organ donation anyway.

  2. Eh, it’s an illogical reason, but I kind of see a justification for it. To use an old-school term, it seems unmanful to execute someone in the recovery ward. I don’t know if legislation at any level holds that a prisoner must be of sound body prior to execution, but it wouldn’t strike me as nonsensical if there were.

    I have no reason to assume that this was the reasoning here, though.

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