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Ohio, Oregon Cases Raise Questions About Death Row Organ Donation

An Oregon man is so desperate for a new lease on life that he has taken to asking for help beside the road. Kevin Gray, a father of two with advanced kidney disease, spends hours each day on a busy highway with a sign reading, ‘Living Kidney Donor Needed-Please Help.’

After Gray’s story appeared on a local news broadcast, a potential donor came forward to help. The problem is the man willing to donate his kidney is on Oregon’s death row.

“I noticed your story on Kevin Gray’s drive to find a kidney donor. There are several local inmates who would be willing to be tested and donate, myself being amongst them,” Christian Longo wrote to the local news station.

Longo stressed that he was not offering his kidney in a way of making up for the crimes that put him in prison but believes that Oregon law should allow inmates to donate to those in need.

“I don’t perceive it as a redemptive act, I perceive it as a logical act,” Longo told the station. “I just think its that Kevin has to resort to standing on the street corner to find a kidney when there’s millions of inmates.”

Although desperately in need of a kidney, Gray has since declined the offer, saying that he does not want the death row inmate to get publicity over his plight.

Currently, organ donation is not usually allowed among death row inmates and current execution methods render many of the organs unusable after death.

There have been some cases, though, were transplants have been considered. In 1995, Delaware death row inmate Steven Shelton, who had no scheduled date for execution, was allowed to make a living donation of a kidney to his mother.

More recently, Ohio delayed the scheduled execution of Ronald Phillips to allow for the possibility that Phillips could donate a kidney to his mother. However, the state gave him a deadline of March 23 of this year to sort out the details of a proposed transplant and have the procedure completed. That deadline is soon to pass and Ohio has denied any further requests claiming Phillips will not have time to recover before his July 2 execution date.

Although Phillip’s bid was unsuccessful, Ohio Governor John Kasich did open the door for future death row donations and potential legislation that may make organ donation from death row a reality. “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,” he wrote in his remarks on the Phillip’s case.

Photo Credit: KGW

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.