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XOIIO's avatar

Can organs from people who had lethal injection be used?

Asked by XOIIO (16848 points ) April 3rd, 2014

Just something that popped into my head, in states that have lethal injection, can organs from people killed be used as donors for people who need them, or does the poison make it not possible?

I think that if the person is going to die anyways, it would be a good source of organs for those who need them, just so long as they found another way to kill them. I think a gunshot to the head would be more humane anyways, as I hear that lethal injection is supposedly actually painful. That may just be myth from movies though.

I’m also wondering, is it possible for someone to build up a resistance to it the same way as people do with other poisons or venoms?

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20 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

My understanding is that lethal injection kills because it suppresses breathing and stops the heart from beating. I don’t think it causes any organ damage at all. This is something I’ve wondered too, given the organ shortage. I think if a prisoner is eligible for organ donation and they die, I think their organs should be donated with or without their consent.

Lethal injection does supposedly have some pain for some people. Bullet to the head would be way better but apparently that’s too violent in the public eye. Lethal injection looks more “peaceful” but it’s really not.

Bill1939's avatar

Harvesting organs from the condemned presents the risk of mandating the death penalty for less than heinous crimes to increase the availability of transplantable organs for aging wealthy individuals.

GloPro's avatar

China is the last nation in the world currently harvesting organs from inmates. They have announced they will cease doing so in August of this year. The article I linked is very interesting and relates to @Bill1939 comment.

syz's avatar

No. For the same reason that euthanized deer cannot be donated to the food bank and euthanized horses cannot be fed to big cats – the drug/drugs are present in the tissues and will affect the recipient.

wildpotato's avatar

@syz So does that mean they used a special kind of anesthesia for Marius the giraffe, since they were able to feed his body to the lions? Wiki says he was put down with a bolt gun or rifle – unclear which – after being anesthetized.

ragingloli's avatar

I am sure if you cook them thoroughly, neutralising the toxins, they would be perfectly safe to eat.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

No, the toxins ruin the organs. I’ve seen how China harvests the organs and it is rude and barbaric.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I remember this movie.

Seriously, the fact that so many prisons are run for profit in the US makes me worry about any scheme involving harvesting organs from death row prisoners. Americans already look bad for even having the death penalty; this would look a lot worse.

Cupcake's avatar

The patients I have seen who were awaiting harvesting/donation of their organs (dead people) were mechanically and pharmacologically kept “alive” so that their organs were perfused with oxygen. That process is fundamentally at odds with lethal injection. If you give someone medication to cause their heart to stop and them to stop breathing, then you cause organ damage due to lack of oxygen. Period.

There are also confidentiality and ethical issues. Wouldn’t you want the option to deny acceptance of organs from a convicted death row felon? Surely lethal injection occurs infrequently enough that you could correlate the time you were offered the organs with impending/recent lethal injections.

I think it’s a bad idea all around.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree with @Cupcake that it’s a bad idea all around.
I would, however, support an alternative method of death that would allow an inmate to donate organs and tissue if they so desired.

I’m not overly concerned about receiving The Tell Tale Heart transplant.

GloPro's avatar

Lethal injection wouldn’t interfere with plastination. They should donate the bodies to Body Worlds, and position them in poses related to why they got the death penalty… The prison section of the exhibit could be called Dead Man Walking or The Green Mile

ibstubro's avatar

Cool idea, @GloPro, but I’m sure it would be seen by some as glorifying their evil deeds, and it could be traumatizing for some victims.

GloPro's avatar

Well, if it was murder, for example, they could be the one getting butchered. If it was child molesting, they could be posed getting sodimized. I think to be in the victim’s position for all of eternity would be fitting. They could curtain it off like they do the pregnant woman they plastinated split open to show gestation…

Maybe it would scare kids straight

downtide's avatar

I don’t think so. A lethal injection is basically a very high-dose anaesthetic which would settle in the tissues and organs. If they were going to harvest organs they would have to do so before administering the lethal dose and that’s just one huge ethical minefield.

Cupcake's avatar

@ibstubro I’m not opposed to that, but I think the recipient would need to consent. I remember having a patient who had been exposed to something (Hep B??) but was not currently infected with it. The doctors had to get permission from the recipient to use the organs. I see this in a similar fashion.

wildpotato's avatar

@ibstubro They’re working on it, but not quickly enough for some, unfortunately.

Adagio's avatar

I would hope the condemned persons family, if not the person him/herself, would have final say in what happens to the body after death, it doesn’t matter what the crime was or what anyone else thinks of this person, he/she is somebody’s son or daughter or mother or father or brother or sister, don’t condemn the family along with the condemned relative. Not that I think that donating organs is a bad thing, far from it, but the decision should be made by the person concerned or their family.

ibstubro's avatar

Probably be prudent, @Cupcake, the consent form.

syz's avatar

@wildpotato I have no idea what the zoo would’ve used that would not be present in the tissues – nothing I know would have that short a half life, and if it did it wouldn’t have provided any anesthesia at the time of cull, anyway. (Except for gas anesthesia, but there’s no way they gassed the animal without some sort of tranquilization.)

A local rescue group that I work with once fed horsemeat to the big cats and the donor did not inform them that the animal had been euthanized with drugs. They were lucky that they didn’t lose any of the cats, but they had a compound full of animals that were profoundly unconscious for up to 3 days. Interestingly, they noticed that the animals that received distal muscle tissue revived faster than those that ate organ meat, which makes sense when you think that the heart had a limited amount of time to circulate the drug throughout the body before it stopped.

debrastaphan's avatar

I don’t think so..Lethal injection may cause damage to certain organs but a professional can give you better advice.

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