CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Indiana Death Row Inmate Requests Reprieve to Donate His Liver: UPDATE

Indiana's Governor, Mitch Daniels, is facing an unprecedented question--should I grant a death row inmate reprieve so he can donate his liver to his dying sister?  Gregory Scott Johnson is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 25 for a 1985 murder of an 82 year-old woman, and his sister, a 48-year old mother and grandmother, is in severe need of a liver.  Although tests to determine the compatibility of Johnson's liver with his sister's needs haven't yet been conducted, Johnson hopes that by donating the liver, he can finally give something "positive to society."  According to Indiana's Deputy Attorney General Steve Creason, the State hasn't taken a formal opinion of how it will handle Johnson's request.  But Eric Meslin, a director of Indiana University's Center for Bioethics, articulated the dilemma this poses for the State:  "You can't donate a liver before you die, because that would kill you and that gets in the way of the state killing you," he said. "And you can't donate organs after you die, because the method of execution would render the organs unusable."  Johnson's attorney, Michelle Kraus, explained that instead of actually removing Johnson's liver, and thus interfering in the state's execution of Johnson, doctors could use the "split liver transplant" method, which removes a piece of the liver and uses it to regenerate a healthy liver.  The donor's liver regenerates, as well.  So Johnson could recover in the two week to two month period typically required to recuperate from the procedure, and eventually be "healthy enough to be put to death."  More from the AP's report...


UPDATE:  The Indiana Parole Board rejects the request.  Governor has the final say.  [Mark Godsey]

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