COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — One of the biggest obstacles for an Ohio death row inmate who wants to donate organs to ailing family members is paying for a procedure not covered by prison policies.
Rules adopted by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for inmate organ donation make the costs the responsibility of the inmate or the recipient.
Attorneys for condemned killer Ronald Phillips haven’t yet addressed how he might pay for donating a kidney to his mother or his heart to his sister.
“This will be one of many factors surrounding the donation which will be explored at length over the coming months,” public defender Lisa Lagos said in an email Friday.
The average cost of a kidney donation is about $260,000, while a heart transplant is close to $1 million, according to data compiled by the Richmond, Va.-based United Network for Organ Sharing.
Ohio’s policies require compatibility testing by the prisons agency and that the surgery be performed at the Ohio State University medical center.
The policy also prohibits donations that would create “extreme security concerns.” It’s unclear whether this would cover the transfer of a death row inmate to a hospital.
Organ donations by inmates are rare and the state doesn’t track them, said prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. One inmate recently donated blood marrow, she said.
Phillips, 40, received a temporary stay of execution Wednesday, one day before the state was scheduled to put him to death.
Gov. John Kasich delayed the execution until July to give medical experts time to determine if Phillips could donate “nonvital organs or tissues” to his mother or possibly others.
Phillips’ mother has kidney disease and is on dialysis, while his sister has a heart condition, Phillips’ attorneys have said.
The family is declining to comment, Lagos said.
Phillips was sentenced to die for raping and killing Sheila Marie Evans, the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, in a 1993 attack in Akron.
Delaware death row inmate Steven Shelton was allowed to donate a kidney to his mother in 1995, though his execution wasn’t imminent.
In 1996, the Alabama Supreme Court halted David Larry Nelson’s execution so he could donate a kidney to his sick brother. His brother was too ill for surgery and later died.
Requests in other states, including Texas, have been rejected.
A recently introduced bill in Oklahoma would permit organ donations by death row inmates.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.