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UPDATE: DRC Denies Death Row Inmate's Request to Donate Organs

COLUMBUS (Terri Sullivan/Kate Liebers) -- The man convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter wanted to donate his organs in accordance to his execution.

The request is complicated, however, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction turned down the idea Tuesday.

Death row inmate Ronald Phillips, who is scheduled to die Thursday, said he would like his death to help has many people as possible. He asked to donate his kidney to his mother and his heart to his sister or, if that was not possible, to donate to other people in need.

His lawyers prepared a letter, asking the DRC to allow him to donate his organs.

The response arrived late Tuesday afternoon.

"The last-minute request made by Mr. Phillips and his attorney is unprecedented," said JoEllen Smith, a spokesperson. "DRC has reviewed the options and has determined that the department is not equipped to facilitate organ donation pre-or post-execution."

"DRC considers this to be a private matter between inmate Phillips, his family and his attorneys," she said.

Dr. Jonathan Groner, a trauma surgeon who has studied lethal injection, said the request is problematic.

"The prison population has a high incidence of infectious diseases that could badly affect the transplant recipients," Groner 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."

Groner said any of those infections could be carried in the transplanted organ and the person receiving it would get the infection.

"When you look at the numbers there are maybe three or four executions per year in Ohio," Groner said.

"Seven thousand people die from injuries in Ohio every year. Twelve thousand die in car crashes. Not all of those people could be organ donors, but if everybody filled out the organ donor card we would have a bigger supply of healthy organ donors than we'll ever get from death row inmates in Ohio."

DRC also said in its denial that Phillips had never indicated an interest in being an organ donor before that it never filled out any paperwork.

The statement also states that inmates may be considered for organ donation to living relatives and circumstances that do not create extreme could security concerns.

 
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