The article, “Giving Life After Death Row,” written by an Oregon death row inmate by the name of Christian Longo raises questions about a prisoner’s right to donate their organs after being executed on death row. Longo is a convicted murderer who took the lives of his wife and children and now remains in his 6 foot by 8 foot cell on death row in an Oregon state prison for 22 hours a day. He requested to donate his organs after he is executed, but prison officials denied his request. Longo points to concerns of the health of the inmates as well as potential abuse of the prisoners’ organs by the state in reference to unwarranted medical testing. It is well known that there are many people in the United States on waiting lists for organ transplants. With such a high prison population, the denial of requests to donate organs of prisoners leaves out a lot of people who are potential donors. The article points out that the organs of one inmate could potentially save up to eight lives if given the chance to donate their organs once they are deceased.
The method of execution in most states is carried out with a series of three drugs that ultimately damage the vital organs leading to the death of the prisoner. However, there are other ways in which to carry out an execution that does not damage the vital organs of the inmate. Such methods are used in Washington State and Ohio. Public concerns about the health of the organs of a prisoner come into question as well. As with any other person who opts to be an organ donor a series of tests can be administered in order to determine the health of the organs, so this really isn’t an issue that prison administrators should be concerned with. What is at stake here is a prisoner’s right to his or her own body once the state has carried out its punishment for the crime they have been convicted of. When a person is executed, they have completed their sentence in the prison system and should therefore have the right to dispose of their organs in the way they see fit.
If a person is sentenced to death for a crime they have committed, does that sentence end with their execution? It would seem so, but prison administrators don’t seem to agree given that they denied Longo’s request to donate his organs after he is executed. Once a person is convicted of a crime and sentenced they are property of the state. In any other case, a person is no longer property of the state once they have served their sentence, so why should it be any different for a person who is sentenced to death row? The concern about the health of the prisoners’ organs brings up the issue of the health within prisons. If prisons weren’t such an unhealthy environment for a person to be held this would not be an issue. The prevalence of disease in prisons is something that can be diminished if prison officials and policy makers cared enough about the people who are incarcerated, but that would make them seem human instead of criminal. The denial of Longo’s request to donate his organs after his execution is a violation of his rights to his own body. There is something wrong with prison administrators who do not consider the request of an inmate to donate his or her organs in order to save the lives of people who are awaiting an organ transplant. The question we really have to ask ourselves is when does a prisoner’s sentence really end if they are unable to have rights to their own organs once they have been executed? Many issues are raised by this article; a person's rights to their body when they are incarcerated and after they have been executed, the prominence of disease within prisons that are attributing to deteriorating health of inmates, as well as the methods used to carry out executions in most state in the U.S.