COLUMBIA, S.C., Mar. 8, 2007(AP) Inmates in South Carolina could soon find that a kidney is
worth 180 days.
Lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow
prisoners to donate organs or bone marrow in exchange for time off their
sentences. A state Senate panel gave the nod to an inmate organ and tissue
donation program Thursday; debate was postponed on whether the incentive could
be added because legislators worried it may not be allowed under federal law.
"People are dying. I think it's imperative that we go all out and see
what we can do," said the bills' chief sponsor, Sen. Ralph Anderson,
D-Greenville. "I would like to see us get enough donors that people are no
The measure approved by the Senate Corrections and
Penology Subcommittee would set up a volunteer organ and tissue donor program in
the state Corrections Department to teach inmates about the procedures and the
need for donors. The incentive bill on which lawmakers want legal advice would
shave up to 180 days off a prison sentence for a donation.
Carolina advocates for organ donations said the incentive policy would be the
only one of its kind in the nation.
Federal law makes it illegal to give
organ donors "valuable consideration." Lawmakers want to know whether the term
could apply to time off of prison sentences.
"We want to make this work,
we really do," said Sen. John Hawkins, R-Spartanburg. "But I want to make sure
no one goes to jail for good intentions."
Mary Jo Cagle, the chief
medical officer of Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, urged
senators to find an allowable incentive. She said the two-bill package offers
"the opportunity for a unique kind of social justice."
"We have a huge
need for organs and bone marrow," Cagle said.
But Melissa Blevins,
executive director of Donate Life South Carolina, said any incentive would break
the law and the principle behind donations. "It really muddies the water about
motive. We want to keep it a clearly altruistic act," she said.
the proposals, money for medical procedures and any prison guard overtime pay
would be paid by the donor recipient and charitable groups. The state would also
be able to decide which inmates are permitted to donate.
Department Director Jon Ozmint said he believe inmates would donate even without
"There are long-term inmates who would give if they knew
a child was dying," he said. "They're lifers. They know they're going to die in
In South Carolina, 636 people are on a waiting list for organ
donations. Last year, 291 people received organ transplants — 90 percent of them
from dead donors. About 50 people awaiting transplants die each year, Blevins