Recently, two sisters who were serving life sentences in Mississippi for a crime related to armed robbery were released by Governor Haley Barbour. They were not pardoned, but their sentences were indefinitely suspended. A condition of their release was that one woman must agree to donate a kidney to her sister.
The women have always maintained their innocence, and supporters have argued that the verdict was wrong or disproportionate to the crime. I am not knowledgeable on the facts and offer no view on the whether the verdict and sentence were just.
More details on this case can be found at Everything Health, often among the first to present medical controversies to the blogosphere.
Governor Barbour cited the estimated $200,000 yearly cost of dialysis that the state would bear as a factor in his decision to release the women. This created ethical angst for many of us. Organ donation, at least currently, is supposed to be an altruistic event, when the donor does not receive monetary or other tangible benefits for the gift. (I am not referring here to compensating donors for their time, medical expenses, lost wages, etc. But donors should not view donation as a revenue stream.) If the Governor’s rationale became established policy, then we would become ethically unmoored. The drift that began with a Mississippi prison would seep out across society. Which of the following scenarios would we support?
- Paying for organs on the open market
- Organ auctions
- Selling your kids’ stem cells to support their college funds
- Releasing female prisoners for serving as surrogate mothers or egg donors
- Tax breaks for bone marrow donations
- A pay raise and promotion if you give your boss a kidney
- Admission to an Ivy League institution for a piece of your liver
When do you think the proper time would be to debate human cloning? Now, or after several Whistleblowers have been cranked out in cloning farms around the country?
Two Mississippi women have been unshackled and released from prison. Is medical ethics now in handcuffs?
What's your view?