In short, the Scott sisters are serving life sentences for an $11 armed robbery. Civil rights groups have been fighting this unusually harsh sentence for 16 years. Now that one sister is on dialysis, the governor, the same dude who was all over the news for saying the Citizens Council wasn’t racist, has decided the sisters can be paroled if one gives the other a kidney.
1. While the sisters have compatible blood type, it hasn’t been determined that A. they are HLA/tissue matches and B. that the prospective donor can pass the evaluation.
2. What the hell happened to a living donor’s autonomy? Give up a kidney, or go back to jail… hmmm, let me think…..*
3. Liberty = valuable consideration, which is ILLEGAL in the U.S. (See NOTA 1984)
I could go on and on here, but other folks have done so already. Hence, it’s far less time consuming for to excerpt and link to their columns.
Practical Ethics’s Michelle Hutchinson’s take.
One of her commenters quipped:
In the case of the Scott sisters, the authorities wouldn’t benefit from the exchange; the sisters would. I’m not sure whether the deal is morally objectionable or not, but if it is, it’s not because of exploitation.
I disagree with Ernesto’s point that the state does not benefit from the kidney donation. As per CNN’s article, Jamie’s dialysis costs the Department of Corrections $110,000 per year. The entire tally of her medical treatment is unknown. By paroling these ladies, the DOC is no longer paying to feed, house and clothe them, but more so, they no longer have to foot the bill for Jamie’s medical costs.
Yes, Medicaid will most likely pay for Jamie’s transplant and subsequent treatment, but if all goes well, it will be less than keeping her in prison and on dialysis. Unless Gladys suffers complications from the procedure – and that is another issue unto itself, because 4.4 living kidney donors die each year in the US within 12 months of surgery (per OPTN) and many do experience surgical issues – the state will no longer financially support Gladys. That is surely a tremendous benefit to the state and DOC.
The Journal of Medical Ethics blog post. He concludes:
Medical rights and duties are one thing; liberty rights and duties another. It’s one thing to incentivise donation; mixing it with criminal justice decisions, though, is something else.
*Barbour has not said if he will send the sister back to prison if the kidney isn’t donated. He has said something along the lines of “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”.