Organs Donated by Prisoners? No, No, No!

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD


June 25, 2013

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Hi. I am Art Caplan, and I am at the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Today I want to talk about a law that was just passed in the State of Utah that allows prisoners to donate their organs. This is the first statute of its kind in the United States. The statute says that if a prisoner wants to donate a kidney, the prisoner can do so. It does not say that they are supposed to be rewarded or get time off for that, but it does not prohibit that kind of an incentive, and it suggests that before prisoners are executed, they could say that they want to be organ donors.

I am sure everyone watching this understands that we face a tremendous shortage of organs every day, and many, many people are dying while on waiting lists for kidneys, livers, hearts, and other vital organs. So far, we have found no other way to get more organs.

Certainly we want to encourage our patients to sign their donor cards or drivers licenses. It is very important to encourage the public to support organ donation. That ought to be part of almost every interview one has with a patient, as part of a good medical history, asking, "Have you thought about organ donation?"


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