BOSTON (LifeSiteNews) — A chilling bill proposed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives aims to address demand for organ donations by offering convicted felons time off their sentences in exchange for giving up body parts.
HD 3822 establishes a new Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program within the state Department of Correction as well as a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee, which “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 […] on the condition that the incarcerated individual has donated bone marrow or organ(s).”
The bill does not define eligibility, but rather leaves qualifications up to the discretion of the committee, which would be comprised of Commissioner of the Department of Correction or his chosen designee, the Medical Director of the Department of Corrections or his designee, a bone marrow/organ donation specialist from a hospital in the state or his designee, a representative of a bone marrow donation advocacy group or his designee, and two members appointed by the governor, “one of whom shall be a board member of an advocacy group advocating for the rights of incarcerated individuals, and one of whom shall be from the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association.”
The bill could potentially give dangerous violent offenders a means of getting out before serving their full term, without the direct say of an elected officeholder accountable to the people, and advances the commoditization of human tissue as something that can be exchanged for personal gain.
“There is not even a perfunctory assurance of informed consent,” observes The Intercept’s Judith Levine. Further, the bill “hints at the ways policymakers think about people and bodies and the calculus that determines which bodies deserve respect and care and which do not,” and comes with a host of ethical and logistical mines. “Would a parole board look kindly on an organ donor years down the road?” she asks. “Would there be retribution against someone who opted out? How is any prisoner to know?”
“The proposed swap may be illegal anyway,” Levine adds. “The National Organ Transplant Act prohibits organ donation in return for ‘valuable consideration,’ which includes nonmonetary reward. Except for some biological materials including eggs, sperm, and entire corpses, body parts must be donated without recompense. The Federal Bureau of Prisons allows inmates to donate organs to family members. But the sole motive must be altruism. For this reason, when a bill similar to Massachusetts’s was enacted into law in South Carolina in 2007, the quid pro quo was stripped out.”
While not as high-profile as the abortion debate, organ donation has long been a major battleground for the sanctity of life. Last fall, bioethicists warned that a new organ harvesting protocol, in which a recently-deceased person’s heart is restarted while a surgeon induces brain death to be able to remove organs from a “warm” body, blurs the line between life and death. The abortion industry has also been accused of pressuring women to abort specifically to obtain usable fetal organs.