SC inmates could trade organs for freedom

Medical ethicists are shaking their heads over a new South Carolina bill which would let inmates leave prison six months early if they donate a kidney or bone marrow. The bill, which was just approved by the state Senate's Corrections and Penology Subcommittee, would let the state's Department of Corrections decide which inmates were allowed to donate. The costs for the donation, as well as any prison guard overtime needed to maintain the peace, would be paid for by the organ recipient and/or charities. The bill's main sponsor, state Sen. Ralph Anderson (D), said the six-month reduction would be "motivation" enough to get the prisoners to help save people on waiting lists.

But many legal scholars are reacting like Georgetown University professor of law Lawrence Gostin, who dubbed the bill "grossly unethical, if not unlawful." Gostin notes that prisoners, who have very little autonomy, are already excluded by federal law from participating in clinical trials, as they aren't in a position to make a free choice. Legislators, meanwhile, are not going to debate the bill until they determine whether such donations violate a federal law forbidding trading organs for a "valuable consideration."

For more information on the measure:
- read this Los Angeles Times piece