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Deathrow Inmate Wants Clemency to Donate Organ

May 19, 2005  | 

A man scheduled to receive a lethal injection in Indiana next week wants a stay of execution so he can donate part of his liver to his sister, who needs a transplant.

Gregory Scott Johnson received a death sentence for murdering an elderly woman 20 years ago. Although no tests have been conducted to determine if his liver would be a donor match for his sister, he has asked the state board to delay his execution in the hopes that he might be.

Debra Otis, 48, suffers from non-alcoholic cirrhosis. She told NBC’s Today show that she wants the partial liver transplant from her brother. However, a deathrow inmate being the possible donor complicates matters, leaving lawmakers with an ethical quandary that has come up several times over the years.

Both Johnson and Otis might feel constrained by the situation and unable to make an unbiased decision, says Dr. Mark Fox, chairman for the ethics committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private group that runs the nation’s transplant system. Johnson’s decision might be influenced by the fact that donating could extend his life. Otis might decide to accept her brother’s partial liver transplant so he can live longer instead of accepting a full liver from a dead donor, which could be a better remedy for her ailment.

Others see no problem with Johnson donating part of his liver if he is an acceptable match.

The board is set to consider Johnson’s request for clemency on Friday. Gov. Mitch Daniels will consider the panel’s recommendation before making a final decision.

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