An unethical solution
By McKenzie Ward
In Massachusetts a new bill has been introduced that would allow incarcerated individuals to donate organs and bone marrow in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.
The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program would allow eligible incarcerated individuals held by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to gain not less than 60 but not more than a 365 day reduction in the length of their committed sentence, according to the proposed bill.
The legislation was filed by State Representatives Carlos González and Judith A. García.
Rep. González said he was inspired in part by a close friend who is currently on dialysis as he awaits a kidney transplant, according to Boston.com.
When I first read the bill, I was mortified and angry.
While Mass.gov reports that there are more than 100,000 individuals living in the United States and around 5,000 living in Massachusetts who are currently awaiting life-saving organ transplants, this bill is wildly unethical.
When Rep. García announced the bill on Twitter through an infographic, it stated there is currently “no path for organ or bone marrow donation for incarcerated folks” in Massachusetts, even for relatives. Rep. García also stated this law would “restore bodily autonomy” to those who are incarcerated by allowing them to donate their organs.
Bodily autonomy is about having the ability to make choices for yourself. But bodily autonomy is also about not being coerced into making these decisions which is what the bill does.
Michael Cox, executive director of the prison abolition organization, Black and Pink Massachusetts, told Boston.com that earning credit-based early release is extremely difficult to do as the demand for applicable programming is much higher than what is available.
Thus, this program preys on the desperation of incarcerated individuals to gain their freedom and escape a painful and traumatic situation.
Rather than creating a program which allows incarcerated people to donate parts of their body in exchange for freedom, our politicians should be examining other ways that those who are serving time can reduce their sentences.
This could include presumptive parole which would mean incarcerated individuals are released upon first becoming eligible for parole unless the parole board finds explicit reasons not to release them, according to Prison Policy Initiative. Just recently, state Rep. David M. Rogers has for the second time petitioned for the adoption of a bill that would establish presumptive parole in Massachusetts.
Not only is the Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program unethical, but it may violate the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 which is a federal law that prohibits the selling and buying of human organs in the United States.
This act also includes a criminal prohibition against the exchange of organs for transplantation for valuable consideration. Valuable consideration refers to the sufficient price paid by a party in exchange for a contract or sale, according to Cornell Law School. Valuable consideration is not limited to merely financial exchange but can include other acts.
Arguably, the donation of an organ or bone marrow in exchange for a reduction in a prison sentence may be interpreted as valuable consideration as the incarcerated person who is donating an organ or bone marrow is being rewarded for doing so.
If Rep. González wants to increase the number of people who are organ donors or who donate bone marrow, he can propose a bill that does not prey on the desperation of incarcerated individuals.
No one should have to trade a kidney or a piece of their liver for freedom.