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Debate over Inmate Organ Donation

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKRC) -- Ohio Governor John Kasich says the state is in "uncharted territory" after delaying an execution to consider a condemned child killer's unprecedented request to donate his organs.

43-year-old Ronald Phillips was to be executed Thursday, but governor Kasich issued a stay Wednesday, saying he wanted to allow time to study whether Phillips could help save a life by donating non-vital organs, like his kidney.

He raped and murdered a three year old girl in 1993.  The kind of criminal few would say is worthy of mercy. Days before he was to draw his final breath, Ronald Phillips made a final request: to donate his organs to his mother and sister, one suffering from kidney disease, the other a heart condition.

Ohio prison officials denied the request due to security and logistical issues, but Thursday Governor John Kasich granted Phillip's request for a stay of execution, saying, Ronald Phillips committed a heinous crime for which he will face the death penalty. I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen."

Richard Dieter is the executive director of the death penalty information center. He calls this development unprecedented.

"This is the first case I've heard where an execution has been stopped literally 24 hours away to allow even the possibility of an organ donation.  It's actually been proposed a number of times, that an inmate wants to give his organs perhaps even during the execution, that they be harvested as he dies, but that has not been allowed."

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction policy spells out how organ donations involving inmates will be handled. It dictates, All costs shall be the responsibility of the inmate and/or organ recipient" and "all inmate organ donations shall be performed at OSU Medical Center".

Doctor Robert Higgins is the director of OSUs comprehensive transplant center.  He says this case comes with serious questions: legal, ethical, and moral.

"Who is going to administer the procurement of the organs and how that would be done, in what circumstances that will be conducted, is really a challenging ethical question."

Phillips' execution has been rescheduled to July 2nd of next year.

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