transplant for death row inmate?

  1. I think we are long overdue for a spirited debate-we have discussed this topic here on the boards-this is another case.............................................. .................................................. .UMATILLA, Ore., (May 27) - Horacio Alberto Reyes-Camarena, a convicted murderer with failing kidneys, is presenting Oregon officials with a tough choice -- how best to keep him alive until they can execute him.

    The cash-strapped state, struggling to provide basic education and health care to its citizens, pays $120,000 a year to clean Reyes-Camarena's blood with a dialysis machine at Umatilla State Prison. That treatment could continue for a decade as he appeals his death sentence in the 1996 murder of an 18-year-old woman.

    After Reyes-Camarena's prison doctor last month concluded he was a good candidate for a transplant, state officials may consider giving him a priceless donated kidney. The $100,000 operation could save the state money but would deprive someone outside prison of a life-giving organ.

    Reyes-Camarena says he will not ask for the operation but would accept it.

    ''If they offer it to me, I'll take it but I never want to ask for a kidney,'' Reyes-Camarena told Reuters by telephone ''I'm on death row now. Someday, if it got allowed, I'm going to go through appeals and then the man (executioner) has to do his job. Why take it with me?'' he said.

    Many people around the state agree, and news that Reyes-Camarena was a potential candidate for a transplant set off a furious debate last month.

    ''It's a conundrum because you clearly are required to give medical care to prisoners whether they are on death row or not,'' said Josh Marquis, district attorney for Clackamas County, Oregon, and a staunch death penalty advocate.

    Some hospitals have refused to put state health plan members on transplant waiting lists because the plan has cut prescription drug benefits, raising the risk that transplant patients won't be able to pay for expensive drugs that help ensure their bodies do not reject the new organs.


    Reyes-Camarena, who stabbed Maria Zetina to death and repeatedly stabbed her sister who survived the attack and testified against him, could be placed on those transplant waiting lists ahead of other state clients.

    ''The idea that he would live while someone else would die is absurd,'' said Marquis.

    Seventeen people die each day in the United States while waiting for kidneys. The national waiting list has 57,000 names. The irony of his preferential treatment is not lost on Reyes-Camarena, who has followed the debate about state cuts and his own care in the news.

    ''I know people on the outside. They need things and they don't get it. Sometimes being here is better,'' he said.

    Patricia Backlar, who served on the National Bioethics Advisory Commission in the Clinton administration, said a death row inmate should not have greater access to medical resources than the state's other health care clients.

    But Backlar also cautioned that the state is on a slippery ethical slope if it tries to determine who deserves a transplant based on things like criminal history.

    ''A lot of people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit,'' she said. ''It's very hard to put a value on someone's worth, so you would want to be cautious before you put yourself in the position of being the God squad.''

    Death penalty opponents and health care advocates bristle at the very thought of making such a decision. Reallocating federal funds could provide health care for everyone, said Peter Bergel, director of Oregon PeaceWorks, an agency which opposes the death penalty.

    ''We need to structure our social policy in such a way as nobody has to make a decision like that,'' Bergel said. ''When we make judgments as to the value of one person's life over the value of another person's life we are making judgments that the creator has reserved for him or herself. We're not gods.''

    A $2 billion state budget shortfall, blamed for everything from suicides by mentally ill people who could not get treatment to big cuts in education, has intensified the debate, which might have been avoided in fatter economic years.

    ''If the state pays (for Reyes-Camarena's kidney) and we don't have enough money to look after our school children or our mentally ill, then that may be an unfair distribution, just because the benefits of it are limited,'' Backlar said.

    REUTERS Reut08:00 05-27-03
  2. 83 Comments

  3. by   JULZ
    IMHO I think this is a terrible waste of a kidney! He did it (the crime) there is no debate on his innocense and he is going to be put to death anyway, sooner or later, I say make it sooner!!

    That may sound really insensitive but if it were my son or daughter or anyone I knew on that kidney list and he got put above them I'd be furious!

  4. by   nessa1982
    Whats the point of keeping him alive so they can execute him, save someelse who needs kidneys life as well as the taxpayers some money by not replacing the guys kidneys!!
  5. by   FROGGYLEGS
    I'm interpreting this as tax dollars would be saved by giving him the kidney transplant instead of continuing to pay for dialysis?
  6. by   Furball
    the thought of wasting a kidney is UTTERLY disgusting!!!!
  7. by   imenid37
    why the devil would this be considered. people are kept off of transplant lists when they cannot/will not lose weight, stop using drugs/alcohol, etc. and this demon could get a transplant. no way! i hate to see tax money wasted, but let's make an exception here. a kidney is a priceless second chance at life for an ill person. this guy threw his chance at life away when he did this awful crime. no way should he get a transplant.
  8. by   P_RN
    And I am thinking about my sister in law who died at age 34, because back then she couldn't afford either dialysis or a transplant. She died in 1973. Either would have kept her alive.

    As I am certain there are innocent people in prison there should be every consideration for medical care for everyone, inmates included. However..... this man already states the executioner will get him....why take it with him....I would have to say no to the transplant. And I would also question the hemodialysis.
  9. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I wonder if they do execute him, could any of HIS organs be harvested for donation for OTHERS??????? THIS could be "payback" for society, could it not?
  10. by   P_RN
    I doubt they would be viable organs considering whatever means of execution.
  11. by   GraceyB
    According to state laws, prisoners cannot be put to death unless they are healthy. The could be stabbed before execution and they have to get better before they can be executed. But to up him on a list when others who are not criminals and have loved ones waiting for them to get better is just plan insane! To watch my family member die because a kidney that could save his/her life went to a person waiting execution will make my blood boil. I just don't understand the way the world works these days.
  12. by   nessa1982
    so just take away the dialasis and let him die!!! for crying out loud!
  13. by   GAstudent
    I disagree. Yes he did (according to a jury) kill this woman, but he is still a US citizen. If he was in line for it then he needs it. Maybe he did not do it and they proved it with DNA what would you say then??
  14. by   sehbear
    I hear the as dying goes... renal failure is a relatively nice way to die?!?:stone