By Michael Cook
Massachusetts is a state where conservatism goes to die, so it was astonishing to read a bill in its legislature to effectively pay prisoners for donating their organs. Since prisons are places where people are impeded from giving informed and free consent, prisoner organ donation is possibly coercive and clearly ethically dubious.
But that is what Bill HD.3822 proposes:
The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program shall allow eligible incarcerated individuals to gain not less than 60 and not more than 365 day reduction in the length of their committed sentence in Department of Corrections facilities … on the condition that the incarcerated individual has donated bone marrow or organ(s).
The bill is sponsored by five Democrats in the state House of Representatives. There doesn’t appear to be any explanatory memo.
An anti-prisons blogger was savage in his criticism of the bill:
Personally I think support for it should immediately disqualify anyone from holding any power. If inmates want to donate organs, marrow, or blood, they should absolutely be able to, but tying it to a reduced sentence means that we’re now viewing organ harvesting as an acceptable punishment within our so-called justice system, same as prison time (no less than two months and no more than one year), or the fines some people are able to pay in lieu of prison time.
This is the kind of s_ _ _ I’ve seen in dystopian, gritty scifi shows like Killjoys or Lexx. It’s the kind of stuff people say China does, when they want to wave away the fact that the “Land of the Free” locks up a much larger proportion of its population.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Judith Garcia, explained on Twitter that “Nearly 5,000 MA [Massachusetts] residents are currently awaiting organ transplants” and the bill would “restore bodily autonomy to incarcerated folks by providing opportunity to donate organs and bone marrow.”
Chris Robarge tweeted:
“Imagine proposing that incarcerated people trade literal parts of their body for time off their sentence, and thinking you’re the good guy.”
Editor’s note. This appeared on BioEdge and is reposted with permission.