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Doctors Consider Prisoners' Health Following Inmate's Organ Donation Request

COLUMBUS (Terri Sullivan/Kate Liebers) -- Death row inmate Ronald Phillips was supposed to die Friday.

Instead, Gov. John Kasich postponed the execution in response to Phillips' request to donate his organs, and Phillips was returned to the Chillicothe Correctional Institute.

Phillips' new execution date is July 2, 2014, giving plenty of time to see if Phillips is a kidney match for his mom or anyone else.
 
He was sentenced to death for the rape and subsequent murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron.

"First thing he said is 'God is good,'" said Lisa Lagos, an assistant State Public Defender. "He is very grateful for the extra time."

Tim Sweeney, Phillips' criminal defense attorney, said they were going to work with the prison, the state, the inmate and his family to make the transplant happen.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will be the ones who determine if Phillips can donate his organs to his mother, or anyone else, before his eventual death. 

Lagos said they are looking into whether Phillips could donate a lung, bone marrow, or other organs.

"We will look into that to see what's feasible. He even said his hair -- if it has a use then they can take that too," she said.

Yet health issues could thwart Phillips' potential donation.

Dr. Jonathan Gronan, a trauma surgeon and expert in lethal injection, urged caution when it comes to prison organ donors.
 
"The prison population has a high incidence of infectious diseases that could badly affect the transplant recipient," he said. "The HIV rate is 10 times higher than the general public. Hepatitis C runs up to 30 percent. Tuberculosis is also high in the population."

Of Ohio's 50,595 prisoners, 5,574 are being treated for Hepatitis C; 339 are HIV positive, 85 of whom are in AIDS status; and 280 are enrolled in tuberculosis chronic care clinics, although a prison spokesperson said none have active tuberculosis and rarely do.

If the transplant is possible, the surgery would not be covered by taxpayer dollars.

The Ohio prison system states that the surgery would be performed at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, with all costs -- including security and transportation -- paid for by the inmate and/or the organ recipient.

If the organ recipient is on Medicaid, that agency would likely pick up the tab, said Sam Rossi, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. There would have to be a review process, however, Rossi said.
 
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