Condemned Man’s Request To Donate Organs Denied Because There’s Not Enough Time For Him To Recover (Before They Kill Him)

death row


Rapist, child killer and now potential death row organ donor Ronald Philips, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter back in 1993, is set to be executed on July 2nd of this year. On Friday his request for his organs to be donated to two of his family members was denied because, get this, there isn’t enough time for him to recover from the surgery. You know, recover enough so they can kill him anyway. To me, this pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with the death penalty in America.

From what the Cleveland Plain Dealer says, the kidney surgery would have to be completed by tomorrow in order to give Philips enough time to recover before July 2nd. According to Stephen Gray, the prison system’s chief counsel, the state “fully intends” to carry out the execution as scheduled. Apparently Philips would like to donate his kidney to his mother, who suffers from kidney disease and his possibly heart to his sister, who has heart disease (obviously this would have to happen post-execution and I’m guessing the kidney can’t be due to the cocktail given via lethal injection though reports aren’t clear on this fact.).

Now, to be fair, this could very well be a ploy on Philip’s part to buy time. He didn’t make this request until November of 2013, after running out of appeals.. But of course, why would he make the request before that, if there was even a glimmer of hope for his own life? But Philips was warned about this deadline two months ago, and according to Gray:

“Only a little progress has been made by your client and his mother to move forward with this process.”

Philips initial request was also denied, but Ohio Governor John Kasich delayed the execution until July in order to give the state more time to determine whether or not this was even possible.

To be completely frank, I am personally against the death penalty all together. I think that the legal system is too flawed to have the power to end someone’s life, no matter what they’re accused of. I’m obviously not defending this piece of human filth. What he did was despicable and he should spend the rest of his life in jail.

But regardless of my feelings on the matter, Philips will be executed. What I don’t understand is how the state of Ohio could deny two innocent people the chance to possibly have healthy lives, all because of time constraints. What’s even more baffling is that the time constraints are caused by the state’s obligation to give him recovery time, even though as soon as he’s recovered, they are just going to execute him anyway.This kind of skewed logic is the epitome of why the state shouldn’t have this power. I’m also confused on how this would effect his possibly heart donation, since this would have to be done after death.There has to be another option, and for the sake of this guy’s family members (again, innocent people who had nothing to do with his crimes), I hope the state reconsiders.

(Photo: Shutterstock/Nagel Photography)

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  • Lackadaisical

    I am a little confused about this because of the organs he wants to donate. Kidneys I get, he can donate a kidney and live but surely if he tries to donate a heart then recovery time is a moot point. I thought that was an organ that would be donated upon his demise, assuming the execution method doesn’t ruin the organs for transplant.

    • Frances Locke

      I pointed that out in the post as well, but I’m going to speculate that the kidney needs to be taken out while he’s alive for some medical reason. Like I said, this is speculation, since I can’t find a definitive answer so far. The heart would have to be taken post-mortem. Perhaps he would need to be recovered enough for the heart to be viable? If I find more info I will definitely update.

    • arrow2010

      Upon execution I doubt the heart would be in a healthy state for transplant. So it’s a moot idea trying to harvest organs from executions. Unless you do it like China, where you put them on the operating table and harvest them while alive….

    • Lackadaisical

      I suspect that execution by organ donation is an ethical can of worms that they are unprepared to open anywhere in the US. Also, if they changed the execution method to something that allows organ harvesting then removing the heart properly for transplant would be something that the facilities and staff where he will be executed would be unable to handle and a hospital and it’s staff would be unwilling to be involved in an execution to ensure the heart’s viability. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to donate one of his kidneys before the execution, though.

    • arrow2010

      Kill baby kill! That’s the other Sarah Palin world-view after “drill baby drill”. Republicans love to execute people.

    • bookworm81

      Kidney donations from a living donor have a much higher success rate and the recipients live longer as well. (My sister is a social worker who works with pediatric kidney patients both pre and post op so I know all sort of random stuff about this)

    • AugustW

      I’m not sure why they can’t hang him. That’s still a thing, right? Pop a good dose of aspirin first, his heart might stay viable.

  • AP

    Who would want an organ from someone who raped and murdered a three-year-old?

    I would rather die of whatever ailment caused me to need a new organ than accept one from someone who raped and murdered a preschooler. That’s just awful.

    • jendra_berri

      I’m sure his mother might feel differently. And perhaps you might too if you were in the position of needing a viable kidney match.

    • Korine

      If I was on deaths door, I would be practical enough to recognize the innocence of a collection of cells and tissues.

    • Angela

      Actually I’ve worked with people on the transplant list and for most of them their whole life literally revolves around getting a match. I don’t think many would turn down an organ when it comes down to it. Plus with stranger donation the personal information is kept confidential so you really have very little information about where the organ comes from.

    • arrow2010

      Principles go out the window when you need to survive.

    • KarenMS

      What principles would come into play here?

    • AugustW

      Not that I’m not not disgusted by his crimes (I have a 3 year old) but…his kidney didn’t rape anybody. They aren’t doing a dick transplant, so who cares? Living is living.

    • Kelly

      I would. I like being alive. I don’t believe an organ from a bad person would turn me into a bad person.

      Hell, I would kind of enjoy the fact that at least something good came from a monster.

  • JustKatie

    I’m guessing that executing someone who is in poor health from something serious like donating a kidney might violate some cruel and unusual punishment law?

    And yeah, he’s probably just trying to stall. Really, someone who raped and murdered a toddler loves his mommy enough to want to donate a kidney to her? And he couldn’t have done it a year ago, instead of now that he’s out of appeals?

  • Katherine Handcock

    I have mixed feelings about the death penalty. There are some criminals that should never see the light of day again, and the system isn’t very good at ensuring that. And I fully believe what Dr. Stanton Samenow said about about rehabilitating sadistically violent criminals: “Rehabilitation as it has been practiced cannot possibly be effective because it is based on a total misconception. To rehabilitate is to restore to a former constructive capacity or condition….There is no earlier condition of being responsible to which to restore him.” But the US’ death penalty system also has serious problems, as groups like The Innocence Project and statistics about severity of crime versus racial background demonstrate.

    I suspect the real problem has more to do with the fact that this would
    allow his family members to get a donation sooner than others on the
    waiting list – because they’re related to someone who committed a crime
    worthy of execution. I can see the ethical problems with that, even as I
    think that it’s ridiculous to ever prevent someone from doing an organ

    • arrow2010

      Some of these killers are unrepentant monsters who should be executed in the more painful way possible. All you have to do is look up some of the nastier murder cases from the last 10 years to get my drift…

    • Katherine Handcock

      Oh, believe me, I have no illusions that there are many criminals who should never, ever be allowed to see the light of day — I am an avid reader about forensic psychology, so I know some of the ugly details about many of these awful cases. But to me, ANY incidence of proof of innocence of someone condemned to death is cause for pause. Add that to statistics that show similar crimes, even within the same state, often result in shockingly different penalties, and it makes me really leery, even as I think that the only way to ensure people who will commit some crimes from doing them again is to end their lives.
      Until those problems are solved, I think permanent life sentences — truly permanent, as in we hold you until the end of your life, no matter how long that may be — is the only way to go.
      Also, I must disagree about execution in a painful way. We show that we are better than these people by NOT making it painful, because we as a society do not take the satisfaction in pain that they do.

  • Momma425

    Too bad he isn’t in our state- he could choose death by hanging, and presumably still have working organs to donate after his death.

  • Guest

    Well correct me if I’m wrong but don’t all organ donations have to come from a living body? And by that I mean brain dead but still supplying oxygenated blood to the organs, so that they’re still viable. So he wouldn’t be able to donate anything after being executed… And don’t get me started on the irony of a person having to be healthy enough to kill.

  • Mikster

    The only thing wrong with the death penalty is the amount of time and money it takes to be accomplished. (and you can thank bleeding hearts for that) I’d harvest the organs and shut him down. Problem solved.

    • Jenna Nieves

      So there is nothing wrong with executing an innocent person? Assface.

    • Mikster

      Society deems the loss of life sad but acceptable when it comes to vaccination of our babies and children. When people learned that our eldest suffered a severe encephalitic type of adverse reaction to his DTwP vaccines and subsequently died due to those complications, they murmur their condolences and squarely tell me that the risk and loss is OK for the good of society: establishing herd immunity. Why would I think that the rare risk of an innocent person being falsely convicted and executed is any more sad and any less acceptable in the pursuit of the “Good of Society”?
      BTW, I LOVED your eloquence and ad hominess-really states your case and metal faculties beautifully.

    • Jenna Nieves

      Ah yes, my metal faculties…

    • Mikster

      Is that your rebuttal? A typo? You deserve a shiny star sticker for that!
      Now if you care to address the analogy, do go on.

    • AugustW

      There is no rebutting an anti-vaxxer. Best to just smile and back far enough away that you don’t cough on me.

    • Mikster

      Ahh, you assume much. In fact, our other three children- all
      younger than him, are up-to-date on all of their vaccines, save the Gardisil. Including flu shots. As am I- evn my TDap.
      So, now that we’ve established that I am not, in spite of drawing the short end of the stick with our eldest, anti-vaccine at all, perhaps you could tell me how sacrificing a rare victim for the good of the community is different in the case of the death penalty?Tell me why I am supposed to feign outrage when we, as a society have already decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice some innocents for the greater good of the majority. Thanks in advance for a well-thought-out response.

    • Angela

      I cannot believe that anyone would have the gall to tell you that the loss of your son is OK or an acceptable sacrifice for society. It is NEVER okay for a child to die and I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Mikster

      You don’t think it’s implicit in the whole “herd immunity” construct? Unless you say, hey- everyone is entitled to choose for themselves and their kids, you’re basically agreeing that those deaths are acceptable.

    • Angela

      I think that there’s a difference in admitting that some loss is inevitable (which is true whether you choose mandatory vax, voluntary vax, or anti-vax) and calling it acceptable. Medical errors are also inevitable because humans are fallible. No matter how hard we try we will never entirely eliminate them. But I would not say that medical errors are acceptable and I definitely would not tell someone who lost a loved one due to medical error, “That’s ok that your loved one died because if we want health care then it means that a few people will need to be sacrificed to medical errors.” I would say, “That is tragic. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that we can find ways to make health care even safer so that others are spared this suffering.”

  • Victoria

    I think this would really only effect the kidney donation (though the heart may never be an option because I think someone has to die in a very specific way for heart donations, but I may wrong on that). But I also don’t understand why they can’t delay the execution. He’s run out of appeals, meaning that, barring the state of Ohio outlawing the death penalty between now and when he’s recovered enough to do be executed, he’s going to die, I don’t see how “when” matters exactly. (Also, if a state were to outlaw the death penalty but execute a bunch of people before the law goes into effect, that would be super sketchy. Also, also, as long as Kasich is governor, Ohio isn’t going to outlaw the death penalty.)

    • arrow2010

      Republicans sure love to kill people!

  • Angela

    I think that this is a shame, but I can see why they had to deny his claim. The law is very specific about allowing only approved methods for execution (and for good reason). Currently there’s no approved method that would allow organs to remain viable for organ donation. Changing these laws would take years and it is an ethical minefield. Yes, the kidney can be donated while he is still alive but he would need to be transported to a hospital for the operation. But the hospital would definitely not allow him to be executed there (nor does the law permit it) so he would need to be transferred back to the prison. However, if he is transferred before his doctors deem it safe and dies on the way then the state is liable because he died of medical neglect, not an approved form of execution.

    Plus there’s the fact that it’s pretty obvious he deliberately waited until the last minute to make this request, knowing it would delay his execution if granted. If his request is granted then it would allow every inmate on death row to use a sudden urge to donate their organs as a way to delay their execution.

    • jendra_berri

      Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? These people took lives, so why not before they die they save lives? Yeah, it buys them a little more time on the Earth. But if they’re just going to die a little later, is that really a big deal, in light of the fact someone else could live?
      You can’t just donate a kidney randomly. There has to be a match. If in the event a match is found, why not delay execution and get that done? It would be a decent thing to do for humanity after the indecency towards humanity which got you in this situation in the first place.
      If we value life, we value life. But I don’t think the death penalty is a good example of valuing life, generally, so I can see why my argument is moot.

    • Angela

      I hear you, but taking organ donations from incarcerated criminals is risky, especially when they can benefit from donating. Yes, all donor candidates are screened for diseases like HIV or Hep C before they can donate but there is a 2-4 week window following exposure that the tests are inaccurate so you must rely in part on the donor’s honesty that they have not been engaging in any high risk activities (and prison affords ample high risk opportunities). There are probably even psychos out there who would love to deliberately expose themselves to disease and then donate so that they could continue killing even after they’re gone. And of course, hospitalization is a security risk. At the last hospital I worked a nurse I knew was killed, along with a corrections officer when a death row inmate tried to escape.

      Plus that opens up a whole ethical can of worms as well about whether or not someone can truly give voluntary, informed consent to donate if it is the only way to extend his life.

  • NeuroNerd

    Med student here:
    You can’t donate an organ if you die of poisoning or natural causes because the organ loses oxygen as death occurs and becomes injured. Cadaveric organs (organs from decreased donors) can only come from people who died of massive head trauma but didn’t lose oxygen to the organs i.e. brain dead. The organs have to be taken while the person is still on life support.

    For a kidney, he could be a living donor only.
    For a heart, there’s no way to transplant from a living donor, and there’s no way we can take a heart that’s stopped due to lethal injection from a cadaver.

  • SusannahJoy

    There are allllll sorta of laws about when, why, how, and where you can donate organs. Just like there are allllll sorta of laws about executing someone. They’re there to protect people. Occasionally it means that people will be denied an organ that would save their life, but they have to have these rules in place to prevent all kinds of abuse. It’s easy to look at this and immediately say “He could’ve saved two lives, stupid government won’t stop to think and do the right thing!” but legally that’s impossible. He can’t donate because he doesn’t meet the qualifications. Period.

  • Kelly

    This is so stupid. Every method of execution we have destroys organs. What a pathetic waste. He wants to donate. How would putting him under and harvesting his organs be cruel? He would just go to sleep and not wake up. God forbid he get the opportunity to do something decent before he dies.

    It’s so disgusting and barbaric. The laws need to change. Now. This is not ok.