I was on a plane the other day and the fellow one row ahead of me across the aisle had a copy of the New York Times. It was cool because it was made out of a flimsy paper and was printed with cheap ink that smears. It was also mostly black and white. It must have been an old person version of NYTimes.com.
Anyway, there was a big headline that I was able to see from my vantage point and I really wanted to read the article. But how do you tell someone that you were reading over their shoulder and want to know if they could let you read an article from their newspaper. Luckily, I realized that this old person version of the NY Times might also be available on NYTimes.com. (All kidding aside, I actually miss the feel of a newspaper in my hands as opposed to reading the Times online.)
When I got back to in front of a computer I found it.
Christian Longo is a murderer. He committed a heinous crime and after years of denial and self-denial has come to grips with the horror of what he has done. He is ready to die for his actions and that is where he is headed. Christian is on death row in Oregon. He is 37 years old.
Waiting for execution must be the most excruciating feeling. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like and I can’t imagine the thoughts that go through the head of someone on death row.
I imagine that a prevalent sentiment on death row is the wish to do good with the time they have left. The finality of capital punishment must give even the most hardened the desire to leave some sort of legacy beside their crimes. Yet, it can be really hard to “do good” behind prison walls.
Christian is struggling with this. He wants to do something good. In his mind, giving life would be an appropriate way to “do good” in the wake of his murderous life. So Christian has requested that his organs be donated to some of the people awaiting organs for life saving transplants. Some states use an execution method that would harm the organs. But Oregon, where Christian is incarcerated uses a toxin that leaves the organs alone which opens to door to allow harvesting of Christian’s organs to save the lives of others. His organs can save up to 8 people. EIGHT PEOPLE!
He has been denied. “The interests of the public and condemned inmates are best served by denying the petition.”
That’s basically “legalese” for “no”.
Reasons cited by Christian in his editorial range from the reasonable to the ridiculous.
Some are concerned about health. (They can test.)
Others think inmates may escape if we use their organs. (huh?)
Yet others worry that inmates will be taken advantage of and forced to donate their organ. (I can hear this but as Christian writes, reassurances are possible.)
Personally, I think the public thinks they are punishing inmates further by denying them the right to donate their organs. This is dumb. Organ donation is not a “privilege”. I wonder if those denying Christian the opportunity to donate his organs to those who need life saving organs would be comfortable looking the ill people in the eye and saying “you can’t live because the person who wants to give you organs is a prisoner”. It all seems twisted to me.
Dehumanizing inmates to the point that they cannot even save the lives of another is another indictment on our prison system. At the very least, those who can save lives should be able do so. Even if they are on death row.
Link: NY Times