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Killer's quest: Allow organ donation after execution (do you agree?)

Posted by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:43 PM
  • 38 Replies
Image: Christian Longo
Pat Sullivan  /  AP file
A Harris County Sheriff's deputy escorts Christian Longo, left, into court in Houston Jan. 15, 2002, in Houston. The Oregon man was captured in Mexico and later convicted on charges of killing his wife and three young children a month earlier and dumping their bodies into local waters. Nearly a decade later, Longo is waging a death-row campaign to donate his organs after execution.
Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
msnbc.com msnbc.com
updated 4/21/2011 9:33:07 AM ET 2011-04-21T13:33:07

An Oregon death row inmate is mounting an aggressive behind-bars campaign to donate his organs after he’s executed, in part to repay society for the gruesome murders of his wife and three young children.

Christian Longo, 37, says he wants to do more to take responsibility for killing his family and dumping their bodies in coastal bays nearly a decade ago than simply accepting execution by lethal injection.

“Why go out and waste your organs when you have the potential to go out and save six to 12 lives?” reasons Longo, whose voice is measured and articulate on the phone from Oregon State Penitentiary cell DRU31 in Salem.

His request to drop his appeals in exchange for being allowed to donate organs has been flatly denied by state corrections officials, who refuse to negotiate with a killer. It’s been denounced in principle as “morally reprehensible” by the nation’s organ donation officials and medical ethicists.

LONGO
Don Ryan  /  ASSOCIATED PRESS
Plastic-covered photos of MaryJane Longo, at left, and, in photo at right, from left to right, her children Zachery Longo, Madison Longo and Sadie Ann Longo, sit on the dock at a makeshift memorial in Newport, Ore., in January 2002. Husband and father Christian Longo was later convicted of killing all four.

“I don’t think we want to be the kind of society that takes organs from prisoners,” said Dr. Paul R. Helft, director of the Charles Warren Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics and Indiana University. "To do so would be to use unfree prisoners as a means to an end."

Lobbying in media, on Facebook
Longo’s quest, which boasts its own website and Facebook page and was featured in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, renews questions about whether changing inmate donation policies could help ease the nation’s dire shortage of transplantable organs — or whether it relies on an innately manipulative or vulnerable population of prisoners.

“It’s impossible to be sure that a person who is behind bars is making a decision they would make while walking down the street,” says Jeffrey Orlowski, executive director of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, the non-profit group that represents the nation’s 58 regional groups.

Ironically, a survey of organ transplant centers nationwide reveals that while taking organs from executed inmates is prohibited, accepting organs from inmates who die of other causes while in custody is permitted, although rarely and under strict circumstances.

Longo probably has a better chance of donating his liver if he's injured or has a stroke in prison and dies later at a local hospital.

In such a situation, even the Oregon Department of Corrections couldn’t stand in the way, spokeswoman Jeanine M. Hohn says.  “We would not hinder any such donations.”

Donations after inmates died of injury or illness while in custody have been allowed, though rarely, even in Longo's region, said Mike Seely, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank. "It's happened once or twice in the 20 years I've been here," Seely says.

Transplant advocates, including those who've received organs, say increasing the supply of available organs is the bottom line, and that willing prisoners should be allowed to donate to often-desperate recipients.

"I wouldn't have cared what heart I got," says Hiland Doolittle, a 65-year-old writer from Albany, N.Y., who waited two years before his 2009 transplant. "When you can't tie your shoes, you know you're at the end of your rope."

Opinion: Organs from inmates: That idea should be DOA

“If someone is sick enough, long enough and wants to live, they’ll gladly take an organ from someone who was incarcerated,” says Joanne Kelley, president of TripleHeart, Inc.,an Atlanta-based support group for heart transplant patients. Her 58-year-old husband, “Kel” Kelly, died in 2008 after living with a donor heart for nine years.

But death row opponents, doctors and ethicists counter that larger societal questions are at stake that supersede individual demands for organs.

'Too many problems'
“I don’t think it’s a calculus that this life can be taken so this life can be spared,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit group that opposes capital punishment. “I think you’ve got to look at the larger picture. The system that gets put in place once the green light is given for that has too many problems.”

But Longo figures that he alone could save eight lives through his death, offering his heart, lungs kidneys, liver and other tissues. That would put a dent right away in Oregon’s waiting list, which includes 768 requests, including 13 hearts, 122 livers and 628 kidneys.

And it could bring down the national waiting list, which on Tuesday totaled 110,772 candidates, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

 

“To be able to save so many lives, that means a lot to me as well,” says Longo.

Such a statement is difficult to square with a man convicted of strangling his 34-year-old wife, MaryJane, and their 2-year-old daughter, Madison, stuffing their bodies in suitcases and then throwing them into coastal waters. He was also convicted of murdering Zachery, 4, and Sadie Ann, 3, by tying rock-filled pillow cases to their ankles and throwing them into icy Oregon inlets in late December 2001.

And it's hard to hear from a man who went back to work at his job at a local Starbucks outlet in the days after the murders before fleeing to Mexico, where he told people he was a New York Times reporter, went swimming and snorkeling, and struck up a brief romance with a woman, according to court records. When he was caught, he denied the killings.

“I didn’t want people to believe it was something I was capable of,” says Longo. “The past is the past. Essentially, over time, my conscience got to me.”

Donating his organs won't atone for the murders, says Longo, who now claims he believes his death sentence is just. It would allow him to do some good, however, perhaps providing comfort to his family.

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by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:43 PM
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Replies (1-10):
maciymommieof3
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:48 PM

If his organs can save a life...why not?

EireLass
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:49 PM

I think they should let him. I don't see it as an atonement, I see it as helping to fill the need for organ donation. In fact...maybe prisoners/death row, shouldn't have any say in their remains, and they should all be donated. 

styler7
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:50 PM


Quoting maciymommieof3:

If his organs can save a life...why not?


CoeyG
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Hell Yes!  If he has viable organs why not use them?  It wasn't the organs that made the decision to kill...it was the brain and until they start removing that part and placing it into another craniaum I say his organs are just as much in demand as anyone's

aneela
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:12 PM

BUMP!

maciymommieof3
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM

I think its an interesting subject

Quoting CoeyG:

Hell Yes!  If he has viable organs why not use them?  It wasn't the organs that made the decision to kill...it was the brain and until they start removing that part and placing it into another craniaum I say his organs are just as much in demand as anyone's


The PhOtO bOoTh Love photography? just learning or experienced...we have it all here+contests and more!

Charli627
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:26 PM
Well I guess so. It is against my religion to do blood/organ donations and to accept them. But I guess if someone is willing to, then let them.
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maciymommieof3
by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:44 PM

good.

Quoting Charli627:

Well I guess so. It is against my religion to do blood/organ donations and to accept them. But I guess if someone is willing to, then let them.


The PhOtO bOoTh Love photography? just learning or experienced...we have it all here+contests and more!

earthangel1967
by on Apr. 24, 2011 at 8:07 PM

If a willingly donated organ could improve or literally save someone's life I don't think it should matter who it came from. I would want it for myself or my loved ones.

I think it is awful that if he is willing to donate them when he is dying anyways that the government or whoever would turn the organs away jeapardizing or potentially killing bc of it those who could have benefitted just bc of their so called ethics... what the kind of ethics allow all those extra innocent suffering people to possibly die who could have otherwise been saved?

Makes me mad!

 YVONNE

Mamasluvin
by on Apr. 24, 2011 at 9:47 PM
So the Guy killed his family...he's been tried...convicted...he will die for it now. So why not allow him to donate his organs. His killings wont pass onto the next person...I don't believe it will. This is my opinion
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