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Let's Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates
November 13, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Let's Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates

For the record, I think capital punishment is wrong and a bad idea.
posted by Daddy-O (100 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um..... no. Let's not.

We already have enough of a problem with privatization of prisons turning what should be a punitive system of deterrent into a for-profit industry. (And we all know the mantra of capitalism: If You're Not Growing, You're Dying.) But turning capital punishment into a harvesting procedure for transplants? How will you stop THAT from trying to be a growth industry?

That's just the FIRST reason why this is a bad idea to pop into my head.
posted by hippybear at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2010 [23 favorites]


Counterpoint: No.
posted by odinsdream at 10:15 AM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Let's abolish the death penalty.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


Eat your heart out, Jonathan Swift. Or at least consider donating it.
posted by condour75 at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


Let's feed the homeless to the poor!
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


Let's just harvest organs in general. Not even just inmates - no need to bring culpability into it. Not even for transplant purposes. Let's just harvest some damn organs.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2010 [18 favorites]


What could possibly go wrong?
posted by marxchivist at 10:29 AM on November 13, 2010


And Larry Niven does a little victory dance: "Told ya so, told ya so..."
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:30 AM on November 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


This won't work because you wouldn't be able to find a surgeon willing to do it and because they'd have their license pulled so fast it'd make their head spin.

It's the same reason a prison doctor only confirms time of death and has nothing to do with the actual procedure.
posted by Talez at 10:30 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


See also Larry Niven's The Jigsaw Man
posted by and for no one at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, let's not.
posted by gallois at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2010


Clearly the guy who came up with this idea hasn't heard of haunted organs. I mean, really, who wants the heart of a serial killer? Can you imagine that? Walking around with a brand new heart, which should be awesome, only the organ once belonged to a murderer, so you know that there is murder in your heart.

And then one day the person who got the heart transplant would end up killing a bunch of people, and then being sentenced to death, and then he'd donate the heart to another helpless ordinary citizen who would also become a murderer, and so on forever and ever.
posted by brina at 10:35 AM on November 13, 2010 [36 favorites]


Why limit it to death-row inmates? —Those lifers, man, they could get by with just one kidney and just one lung. Not like they're partying hearty anymore, is it? And it's not like they really want to look at anything in those hellpits so hey they could donate eyes too, amirite? If you're gonna think outside the box and all, let's think outside the motherfucking box.
posted by kipmanley at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's take the skinheads bowling.
posted by apis mellifera at 10:38 AM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


This won't work because you wouldn't be able to find a surgeon willing to do it and because they'd have their license pulled so fast it'd make their head spin.

You only need a surgeon if the patient is meant to live. This is not a patient care scenario and it's not functionally a medical procedure. Since the intent is simply to extract the organs (I refuse to use the word "harvest"), and killing the subject is actually the intended outcome, it's simply skilled technical work that you can train a non-physician to do.

Not that I'm in favor of it. And one thing the video and none of the comments seem to be aware of is that this is not a hypothetical. It is being done today, just not here. Google, if you will, "mobile execution organs".
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


(without the quotes)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2010


As the video says, many inmates want to donate. Christian Longo, who murdered his wife and three children, has started an organization to advocate for policies allowing organ donation by willing inmates.
posted by katemonster at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


This won't work because you wouldn't be able to find a surgeon willing to do it and because they'd have their license pulled so fast it'd make their head spin.

I'll do it - I mean, I'm not a surgeon, or really anything medical, but taking things out can't be that hard, and ultimately and fortunately, the only way I could get dinged on a malpractice beef would be if the guy survived, which would not be very likely.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is more complicated, at least for me, than it seems. If the inmates want to donate their organs, I don't see a problem in developing the technology that would let them do so. On the other hand, doing so would only perpetuate the idea that capital punishment is an acceptable thing to do in society. Which it is not. At all. Period.

...but, then again, their organs, willingly given, can help save lives and, in a way, let these individuals do something for society that their death would never accomplish.

I guess what makes this easier is that the potential for abuse is so jawdroppingly high that it becomes a moot point. We don't need to turn o ur prison-industrial complex into something that much more horrifying.

Also, we still hang people? Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by griphus at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Damn you, George_Spiggot!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:47 AM on November 13, 2010


Here's the Adverts' punk rock answer to marxchivist's "What could possibly go wrong?" link.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:52 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Organ donation by willing inmates? Well I can see a few problems:

1. What does the typical death-causing drug cocktail do to a prisoner's organs? Are they even usable?

2. "Good behavior rewards" just end up being another power-lever in prison; in other words, it's inevitable that those prisoners on death row who don't sign the card will be subject to more abuse/fewer privileges...and since you can be on death row for decades, this is not insignificant. This is the problem when you have such a profound power imbalance--any choice a prisoner might make is subject to such scrutiny, repercussions, manipulations, and pressure that "choice" becomes a meaningless term.

3. The small number of lives saved/improved are not enough of a good to outweigh the massive evil of the death penalty, and additionally, if it were instituted, it would make getting rid of the death penalty even harder--now you would be accused of denying people organs, not just being soft on murderers and rapists.
posted by emjaybee at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's abolish the death penalty, treat the prisoners for drug and alcohol issues, ensure the prisons are safe from violence and rape, and work on rehabilitation and skill development.

Yes, it doesn't satisfy our culture's insatiable thirst for revenge, but all indications are these efforts are what's more likely to make our society safer.

===

As for donation of organs, I'd bet that the quality of a prisoners organs would be less on average than the general population, due to drug and disease. Let's concentrate on improving the percentage of people willing to donate their organs among the general population.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 10:56 AM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


They do this in China.
posted by pjdoland at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute -- this IS satire, right? Because I think the cognitive dissonance involved is delicious.
posted by condour75 at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2010


It might be satire, but it's hard to tell. Graeme Wood (the author of the original piece) doesn't seem to have much history of satirical writing as far as I can tell.
posted by hippybear at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2010


Let's plastinate them and put them on a touring show in China!
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I misread this as 'Lets harvest the orgasms of death row inmates'. If I were on Death Row, I'd be all for that proposal.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's also talk about the fact that in the U.S., medicine is a private, for-profit business with a very powerful lobby. So is a great deal of the penal system. Do you imagine for a moment that this practice would be guided in the public interest by a board under public control? In this day and age, almost nothing is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2010


Wouldn't the IV cocktail most states administer at the time the killing is performed render most organs unusable? Or would this require states to return to hanging, as I'm pretty sure electrocution would screw-up some organs as well.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2010


Let's not incentivize murder.
posted by kuatto at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad, actually watch the video.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Count me as another who's all for it, and have been for a while.
For those of you who are concerned that execution methods will damage the organs wtfv, the removal of the organs, under anesthesia, would kill the inmate; much more humanly than hanging or electrocution.
And for those that hate the death penalty, good for you, advocate for it's removal in your state. But it ain't ever going away. You'll have gay marriage in Arkansas before Texas stops killing murderers for fun and profit.
In the meantime there are death row inmates who WANT to do this, who want to make one final, selfless gesture so that their deaths can mean something more than someones revenge fantasy, and if a needless death can save a potentially useful life it's ridiculous to throw these men and women in the furnace whole when they could be saving lives.
posted by mikoroshi at 11:13 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone remember the 1991 movie "Body Parts?" The lead role was played by the pilot in "Lost." The body parts of a serial killer were donated and they had a mind of their own.
posted by viralceo at 11:13 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harvesting the organs of death row inmates is a terrible idea.

Hint: if what you are proposing is a standard plot device in horror movies, it's probably a terrible idea.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I say sure, provided that when we execute innocent people, we be able to reassemble them later.
posted by mhoye at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


1. What does the typical death-causing drug cocktail do to a prisoner's organs? Are they even usable?

It couldn't be that difficult to find a drug cocktail that didn't ruin the organs. Find something that specifically targets the brain, or as they say in the video, heavy anesthetic and use the organ removal to finish them off before they have a possibility of waking up and feeling any of it.

2. "Good behavior rewards" just end up being another power-lever in prison; in other words, it's inevitable that those prisoners on death row who don't sign the card will be subject to more abuse/fewer privileges...and since you can be on death row for decades, this is not insignificant. This is the problem when you have such a profound power imbalance--any choice a prisoner might make is subject to such scrutiny, repercussions, manipulations, and pressure that "choice" becomes a meaningless term.

Make the actual decision be something that is decided as you're going to the block, so to speak. You can tell the guards etc. whatever they want to hear. This is my "realistic" answer. My preferred answer is to have prison guards have some accountability but these things are harder to do systematically.

3. The small number of lives saved/improved are not enough of a good to outweigh the massive evil of the death penalty, and additionally, if it were instituted, it would make getting rid of the death penalty even harder--now you would be accused of denying people organs, not just being soft on murderers and rapists.

The fight against the death penalty could continue while current victims of it are donating their organs. "But where would we get our organs?" would be a pretty Orwellian, awful argument that I don't see giving the pro-deathers a significant advantage. I'm imagining media outcry at the first person to use that as their defense of the death penalty.
posted by EtzHadaat at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not? So far this seems to be the best arguments here against harvesting. The rest of the comments pretty much amount to "No. Killing bad. Very bad."

As abhorrent as it is, capital punishment won't be going away in the US anytime soon. This seems like an attempt to make the best of an awful situation, so I support it.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2010


Hint: if what you are proposing is a standard plot device in horror movies, it's probably a terrible idea.

That's fantastic.

"We're supposed to be harvesting the organs of condemned criminals on the 13th, this Friday; the operating room is at the St. Lunatica Memorial Hospital."

"As you know, Bob, she's the patron saint of rabid wolf saliva and full moons."

"That's true, and as you know, Jim, St. Lunatica used to be the Arkham Sanitarium For The Criminally Insane And Possibly Also Cursed By Evil Forces Beyond Man's Comprehension."

"I remember. And as you know, Dave, it was built on an old Indian burial ground. What time were we supposed to get there?"

"I don't know, I've lost my phone."

"We'll, we'd better go find it. Let's split up."
posted by mhoye at 11:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [43 favorites]


The victims of capital punishment have a centuries-long history of benefiting mankind through medicine. Per the Murder act of 1751, medical practicioners were limited in their dissection material to animals, executed criminals, and the illegally exhumed until 1832's Anatomy Act. Of course, this all occurred in the days before transplantation and was largely an academic issue. Still, it's important to remember that a great deal of Western anatomical knowledge prior to 1832 came from prisoners.

Now, the Murder Act framed anatomical donation as a punitive measure, and having been through gross anatomy myself I can see where they were coming from, but what if it were possible to obtain real, non-coerced, informed consent from death row inmates to donate their bodies? What if healthy inmates (out of contrition or altruism) could make one last contribution to the society that sentenced them to death?

Emjaybee brings up the important point that it's tough to offer this choice to prisoners without some measure of duress, but I'd argue that it's not impossible. Others will likely argue that a lot of death row inmates were drug users whose organs might not be the best anatomical specimens, or that they might have diseases which would prevent transplantation (I'm thinking HIV and Hepatitis, but there are many others). The largest issue, of course, is the ethical standing of capital punishment in general. I'm not going to touch that one, and I'll only say that I think it's possible to work for its repeal while at the same time working within its framework to benefit society in general and possibly even provide some catharsis to the condemned.
posted by The White Hat at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's no possible way this could go wrong, whatsoever.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2010


umm, no...Ever think that there might be a reason why the judges say no? The reason seems simple to me. Informed consent or not, adding incentive to convict and place prisoners on death row is a bad idea.
posted by Felex at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


They type the organs of accused in China upon arrest and it's a cruel and corrupt system.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2010


Let's eat the hearts of our enemies to gain their strength. UBL isn't just Ameirca's most wanted, he's our most wanted entre.
posted by humanfont at 11:59 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's give every twenty-year-old male a motorcycle!
posted by mecran01 at 12:02 PM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure the argument that it's cruel is going to convince the sort of people who are making this argument with a straight face. I'd go so far as to say that they might see it as a feature, not a bug. So much so that I'm have to resist the urge to go flag a bunch of posts between this one and the borderline personality dog animation post just because that juxtaposition seems more artistically right to me.

Also, you guys are aware that this is a matter of someone trying to hack the Overton Window, right?

Wood describes his article's intent to address the disparity between the moral hand-wringing we apply to the inmate-organ-donation question, compared to the lack of much discussion at all of the capital punishment issue itself. We quibble over whether a man has a right (!) to donate (!) his liver, but we are silent about the fact that the reason he is in a position to donate his liver is because he is soon to be a literal victim of human sacrifice by the state.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2010


Let's just continue to learn to regrow organs on the backs of mice. Although I suspect when we start growing lungs on their back, they may just take off like dirigibles and rule the skies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, Kid, mostly it wasn't a very good attempt at hacking the Window. Too many people just can't hear the dissonance over the soothingly pragmatic din their arguments make in their own ears.
posted by kipmanley at 12:19 PM on November 13, 2010


All the hand-wringing over possessed body parts can be easily dealt with if we only allow organ donations from executions of innocent people. Problem solved!
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:20 PM on November 13, 2010


Also, we still hang people? Are you fucking kidding me?

Nobody's been hanged in the US since sometime in the mid-nineties. I think a couple of states still allow it as an option.

For those of you who think this sort of thing could be carried out benignly, without abuse: think of all the keen experiments we could do on death row inmates, as long as we'll be killing them anyway.
posted by steambadger at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2010


Most organ harvests currently performed are on donors who are already dead or won't survive, and these do require the technical skill of a transplant surgeon.

Also, this is fucking insane. I will throw my weight behind this only after we make capital punishment infallible, administered equitably without regard to race, education, politics, or cost. Shit, even then, it would feel ethically uncomfortable.

I will never understand why so many people actually *prefer* to live in society of barbarians.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:34 PM on November 13, 2010


No. Let's harvest the organs of politicians and lawyers instead. No hearts though. None to find.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:35 PM on November 13, 2010


For those of you who think this sort of thing could be carried out benignly, without abuse: think of all the keen experiments we could do on death row inmates, as long as we'll be killing them anyway.

I think that's divisive and incorrect framing of the issue. I don't believe anyone here is arguing from that perspective. The pro-donation argument hinges on being able to gain real, meaningful, and voluntary consent to the procedure without any more duress or coercion than a normal, free man would receive. I think all the folks in this thread would do well to read two sections from the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments report on human research: History of Prison Research Regulation and Ethical Considerations.
posted by The White Hat at 12:47 PM on November 13, 2010


For those of you who think this sort of thing could be carried out benignly, without abuse: think of all the keen experiments we could do on death row inmates, as long as we'll be killing them anyway.

This doesn't follow. In one situation, inmates are allowed to donate their organs after their death, voluntarily, in the other, living people are tortured against their will.

Also, you guys are aware that this is a matter of someone trying to hack the Overton Window, right?
Your point is that allowing death penalty victims to also be organ donors makes state murder more acceptable to voters, or brings experimentation on felons closer to the acceptable range. I think the first is somewhat true, insofar as the discussion requires accepting the existence of the death penalty as fact... which it is. The second is not true, in that willingly donating your organs has NO CONNECTION to unwilling experiments done on living people.

If, tomorrow, I was bludgeoned to death, my organs would go help someone in need. However, if I were falsely implicated in someone else's bludgeoning death and it resulted in my execution, they would not be able to. I would consider this an additional injustice.
posted by EtzHadaat at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2010


Is this a Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables bonus track?
posted by Beardman at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


The pro-donation argument hinges on being able to gain real, meaningful, and voluntary consent to the procedure without any more duress or coercion than a normal, free man would receive.

You forgot the pony.
posted by kipmanley at 1:12 PM on November 13, 2010


I think that's divisive and incorrect framing of the issue. I don't believe anyone here is arguing from that perspective.

I certainly don't think so either, and I apologize if seemed to be implying any such thing. My point is that -- especially since incarceration is more and more a for-profit business in the United States -- the potential medical uses of powerless convicts who are doomed anyway would create a lot of temptations, and strict consent requirements would be hard to maintain. I know slippery slope arguments are overused, but this seems like a pretty classic slippery slope.
posted by steambadger at 1:27 PM on November 13, 2010


They type the organs of accused in China upon arrest and it's a cruel and corrupt system.

You are right that would never happen in the US.
posted by dibblda at 1:28 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, you guys are aware that this is a matter of someone trying to hack the Overton Window, right?

Your point is that allowing death penalty victims to also be organ donors makes state murder more acceptable to voters


No, HIS point is that it's kind of creepy the amount of hard wringing this generates relative to general acceptance of executing people. Unfortunately, we have reached an age where you might actually be able to convince the Tea Party that eating Irish babies was a good idea, so trying to be the next Johnathan Swift isn't really the best idea these days.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:30 PM on November 13, 2010


The rest of the comments pretty much amount to "No. Killing bad. Very bad."

Uh huh...?

As abhorrent as it is, capital punishment won't be going away in the US anytime soon.

And that day will be even further away should capital punishment become more gainful.
posted by salvia at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There were under 40 executions in 2008. So while I applaud the desire to shift the supply, this won't even be noticeable. A better solution is to require all individuals who get their driver's license to automatically become organ donors, unless they request to opt out.
posted by scunning at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


should capital punishment become more gainful

To whom? We're talking about a very small number of people-- the US executes about 50 people a year. To contrast, there are well over 20,000 transplant operations performed each year in the US. Even if every person executed in 2009 donated 10 organs, we're still talking about a less than 3% increase in the number of transplants-- and that's assuming the number of available organ donors is the limiting factor in procedures/year. Yes, there is a prison-industrial complex. Yes, it *does* have bigger fish to fry.
posted by The White Hat at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2010


Keep in mind that in Niven's stories, harvesting organs from the condemned leads to the death penalty being extended to almost any crime, including traffic violations. Which is pretty much what would happen.
posted by orthogonality at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2010


I mean, really, who wants the heart of a serial killer?

I'll take three if they are reasonably priced. Please pack in dry ice and ship them to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:24 PM on November 13, 2010


Good video. Better than I expected it to be, having read the comments before I watched it. The point is not very subtle, but I can imagine it could go *whoosh* past some folks.

Invoking Jonathan Swift is appropriate here. Funny, I was just thinking about A Modest Proposal yesterday.
posted by Xoebe at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2010


Does anyone remember the 1991 movie "Body Parts?" The lead role was played by the pilot in "Lost." The body parts of a serial killer were donated and they had a mind of their own.

That's your point of reference, here? You need to watch more good episodes of The Simpsons.
posted by graventy at 3:00 PM on November 13, 2010


Screw this. We need an opt-out system instead of looking for such ridiculous solutions.

What? You can't take a few minutes out of your life to sign a form to keep your ever-so-useful-to-you organs once you're dead? Get over it then. I'm sure your God would rather have you missing your kidneys and saving two other people than he would to see your greedy ass with all its organs in tact.
posted by sunshinesky at 3:04 PM on November 13, 2010


I expected to hate that, but it was actually interesting. The fact that death-row inmates want to donate their organs is a compelling point.

However if there is a material benefit to execution, that creates a kind of moral hazard. So I think we would be better of not doing it.
posted by delmoi at 3:10 PM on November 13, 2010


Are people completely unfamiliar with the phrase "conflict of interest?"
posted by smcameron at 3:13 PM on November 13, 2010


For the record, I think capital punishment is wrong and a bad idea.

For the record, I, too am against capital punishment primarily because I don't think government should be trusted with the power to kill its own citizens.

(There's also the strong likelihood that at least some of them don't deserve it.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:15 PM on November 13, 2010


The ethics of capital punishment have been in dispute among doctors for at least the last 30 years, and the growing unwillingness of doctors to participate in executions has put a strain on the few still willing to, you know, kill people for money. Just imagine what would happen if you executed people in operating rooms.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:18 PM on November 13, 2010


While I feel for the guy who needs a heart and will die without one, and I realize I could be that guy one day, in the event I'm ever hovering in the gray area between life and death on the side of the road after a horrific accident I'd really rather have the paramedics thinking about saving my greedy ass than about saving the guy who might get my heart but only if they go ahead and start preparing to harvest it right now.
posted by localroger at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2010


Xoebe: “Invoking Jonathan Swift is appropriate here. Funny, I was just thinking about A Modest Proposal yesterday.”

If you're suggesting this is some sort of anti-capital-punishment satire, I think you're dead wrong. Or maybe you'd like to explain to the people all over the country waiting for organ donations why you think that need is hideously hilarious. If this were supposed to be some satire, they'd actually make a ridiculous yet plausible proposal (a la Jonathan Swift). But there's nothing ridiculous about the proposal to harvest the organs of death row inmates.

I'm 100% in support of this plan, completely unironically. It makes sense, and there are benefits that it seems like nobody is thinking about. For example: killing people through organ-harvesting surgery as the video suggests would actually be much less painful than killing them the way we do now, with often-faulty electric chairs and sometimes-malfunctioning lethal injection.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2010


It's not hard to find compelling evidence that some underage adolescents really do want to have sex with adults. We don't exonerate adults who have sex with them for the same reason prisoner organ donation is a bad idea. The power imbalance of the situation makes it impossible to tell where the line is between coercion and desire.
posted by localroger at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


The mans voice is very soothing.
posted by clavdivs at 3:32 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's teach Death Row inmates to do the Thriller dance.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:38 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given that there are over 72,000 people actively waiting for transplants in the USA, and 52 people were executed in 2009 even if every executed inmate donated (unlikely, as many are likely to be ineligible) and each saved say 10 lives, that would still only be less than 1% of the organ demand. If the desire is simply based on the need for more organs, this does not seem like the most efficient way to go about it.
posted by scodger at 3:40 PM on November 13, 2010


I have mixed feelings on Capital Punishment, but if the inmates agree to it, why the hell not? Maybe they'd like to do some good.
posted by jonmc at 4:33 PM on November 13, 2010


Really surprised at the reaction to this.

How many of you actually disagree with this statement: "A prisoner scheduled to be executed who requests their organs be donated to those in need should have that request honoured"
posted by tehloki at 4:38 PM on November 13, 2010


scodger: “Given that there are over 72,000 people actively waiting for transplants in the USA, and 52 people were executed in 2009 even if every executed inmate donated (unlikely, as many are likely to be ineligible) and each saved say 10 lives, that would still only be less than 1% of the organ demand. If the desire is simply based on the need for more organs, this does not seem like the most efficient way to go about it.”

It's amazing that you came to the exact opposite of the rational conclusion there even though your math was sound. So you're suggesting that the lives of 520 people are totally worthless because those 520 people happen to be "less than 1% of the organ demand"?
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> more gainful

> To whom? We're talking about a very small number of people-- the US executes about 50 people a year.


50 would be a rather high percentage of some of these numbers
posted by salvia at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2010


Well, no those lives aren't "totally worthless".

Given the moral problems with the death penalty and issues of consent, it would be a more effective use of resources to try and increase the number of donors who weren't executed (9728 last year according to the link above) than to chase after the 52 potential convicts.
posted by scodger at 4:53 PM on November 13, 2010


Let's feed the homeless to the poor!

No, let's feed the poor to the homeless!
posted by krinklyfig at 5:12 PM on November 13, 2010


Let's feed me to you! (in other words, eat me!)
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good satire is almost unrecognizable as such. I hope those labeling this are correct just because I'm intrigued by the idea of such a well done mockery.

When considering the idea seriously, I see no moral imperative to not make use of good organs given with consent. But how many death inmates sustain lifestyles that would allow viable healthy organs, surely smoking is common enough amongst the population to lower that 520 number even further....
posted by oblio_one at 6:35 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many of you actually disagree with this statement: "A prisoner scheduled to be executed who requests their organs be donated to those in need should have that request honoured".

I'd be okay with that, as long as the decision was made by the prisoner only after his or her last avenue of appeal had been exhausted. Presuming the local organ banks were okay with working within the confines of the local prison system and vice-versa.

That said, I am as anti- capital punishment as they come, so I would hope that the new rubric would never be used.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2010


If you're suggesting this is some sort of anti-capital-punishment satire, I think you're dead wrong.

Just below the video there is a box with the text "sff (I assume Sundance FIlm Festival) Release: Jan 20, 2010" if you click on that box you find the following text:

Directed by Max Joseph & Chris Weller, based on an article by Graeme Wood, adapted by Chris Weller and Max Joseph.

In 2008, 37 death-row inmates were executed. None of their organs were donated. Considering that there are currently 2,775 people on the waiting list for heart transplants, shouldn't we be harvesting healthy organs from executed inmates?

Programmer's Notes: GOOD, a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward has joined filmmaker Max Joseph, animator Chris Weller, and writer Graeme Wood to create this entertaining video provocation based upon Wood's original article, which can be found on the GOOD website (http://www.good.is/). Wood describes his article's intent to address the disparity between the moral hand-wringing we apply to the inmate-organ-donation question, compared to the lack of much discussion at all of the capital punishment issue itself. We quibble over whether a man has a right (!) to donate (!) his liver, but we are silent about the fact that the reason he is in a position to donate his liver is because he is soon to be a literal victim of human sacrifice by the state. Surely we can find the energy to consider both moral problems.


I didn't verify any of this myself - Wood could be for harvesting the organs of Alzheimer's patients and anyone who roots for the other team during the Superbowl for all I know.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:15 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really surprised at the reaction to this.

How many of you actually disagree with this statement: "A prisoner scheduled to be executed who requests their organs be donated to those in need should have that request honoured"


No they get no final chance to diminish the utter brutality of this act. No gestures which allow them to transform their death into a sacrifice. No comfort that their heart will beat on, their eyes will see. There shall be no conscience clearing for us either. We are savage in that we do this killing.
posted by humanfont at 8:25 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's feed the homeless to the poor!

No, let's feed the poor to the homeless!
This is going to turn out to be some sort of grim-meathook O. Henry story, isn't it?
posted by hattifattener at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


killing people through organ-harvesting surgery as the video suggests would actually be much less painful than killing them the way we do now

How are you going to get buy-in from the doctors involved, the AMA, and the transplant boards, given that they all refuse to participate in taking lives?

There's a word for cutting into a person while they're still alive, with no intention of keeping them alive. That word is vivisection.

Like the death penalty itself, civilized people consider it unethical.
posted by miyabo at 10:07 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


SOYLENT GREEN IS CONVICTS!!!
posted by bwg at 10:44 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was I the only one who thought the guy narrating the video sounded a lot like mathowie?
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:47 PM on November 13, 2010


I would much prefer to live among people unable to conceive this as a possibility.
posted by francesca too at 2:44 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


One big flaw in this is that there's a lot of folks with diminished mental capacity in prison. I don't have the stats on hand, but I argue that prison has become warehousing for the mentally ill. Anyways, such a donation would arguably be ethically dubious, on the diminished capacity thing alone.

I forget what the most recent SCt ruling is on this issue, but plenty of folks with diminished capacity have been executed. Fuck you, SCOTUS, srsly.

Anyway, as satire goes, one beat in the program would be thus:

"I would like to donate my organs."
"You can't"
"Why not?"
"Because you have been found to have a functioning IQ of 80"
"I don't understand."
"That's okay; we're killing you tomorrow so you won't have to be confused for much longer."
posted by angrycat at 8:35 AM on November 14, 2010


not sure I want a serial killers heart.
posted by butcher at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2010


Let's feed the homeless to the poor!
No, let's feed the poor to the homeless


We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats and get the catskins for nothing!
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2010


butcher: "not sure I want a serial killers heart"

You'd think it'd be perfect for a butcher.

Beside, it's not the heart but the brain you gotta worry about.
posted by bwg at 6:09 AM on November 15, 2010


I would much prefer to live among people WHO CAN conceive this as a possibility.

This could very well save MY life someday. I'll cheerfully choose a serial killer's kidney over 9 exhausting years on dialysis and the dizzying uncertainty and capriciousness of the waiting list.
posted by mochapickle at 10:18 AM on November 15, 2010


Kidney transplants aren't always what you think they'll be.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:36 PM on November 15, 2010


Can we just rephrase the title and start over?

Let's Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates
Let's Give Death Row Inmates the Right to be Organ Donors

I'd like for us to eliminate the death penalty, of course. But in the meantime, it might be cool if we solved the technical challenges associated with state murder in such a way that it's victims could be offered one final, profound opportunity for charity.

I trust that our civilization is still functional enough that we can offer this choice in a way that doesn't victimize or lead to terrible outcomes, but maybe I'm just an optimist.
posted by heathkit at 8:29 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


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