A newly proposed bill in Massachusetts seeks to make it legal for prison inmates to donate organs or bone marrow in exchange for a reduction in their sentences.
Five state lawmakers are sponsoring Bill HD.3822 in an effort to make the legislation legal. They include Carlos Conzales, Judith Garcia. Shirley Arriaga, Bud Williams and Russell Holmes. All sponsors represent either the Hampden or Suffolk districts.
“The Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program shall allow eligible incarcerated individuals to gain not less than 60 and not more than 365 day reduction in the length of their committed sentence in Department of Corrections facilities, or House of Correction facilities if they are serving a Department of Correction sentence in a House of Corrections facility, on the condition that the incarcerated individual has donated bone marrow or organ(s),” the bill states.
Gonzales told WHYN he sponsored the bill after watching a loved one suffer through kidney disease.
“I’ve put more effort into this bill after visiting a friend, who I consider a brother, in the hospital who is required to have dialysis 3 to 4 times a week while he awaits a kidney transplant. He’s a father of three children, and he in his stage 4 of kidney failure,” Gonzales said. “Unless he can obtain a kidney at 40 years old, life expectancy is about 10.4 years for men and 9.1 years for women. I love my friend and I’m praying through this legislation we can extend the chances of life.”
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In a statement on Twitter, Garcia outlined some of her reasonings for sponsoring the bill.
“There is currently no path to organ or bone marrow donation for incarcerated folks in MA — even for relatives,” Garcia said. “Nearly 5,000 MA residents are currently awaiting organ transplants. … [and] Biological relatives are significantly likelier to be compatible donors than strangers.”
Though the bill’s sponsors have touted it as a solution to a challenging health problem, it has already come under fire by prison advocacy groups and users on social media for its potential to be coercive.
According to The Lever, Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts said it is “in touch with the bill sponsors and [are] cognizant of the significant problem of racial inequity in our health system that has left BIPOC communities disproportionately impacted by organ and marrow shortages.”
“However, we are concerned regarding the potential for coercion and impact of inadequate medical care in carceral settings,” the organization continued. “We believe the solution must target the underlying structural problems leading to health disparities, including ongoing needless incarceration of so many who could live freely and safely in our communities.”
Some Twitter users agreed in their responses to Garcia’s tweet.
“HD 3822 is terrifying. It assumes people who are incarcerated retain full bodily autonomy and access to medical care,” @trinabergeon wrote. “This is not ‘restoring bodily autonomy.’ It’s taking advantage of those incarcerated in our state.”
Your organ donation bill is an egregious violation of medical ethics. Withdraw it now,” @egottliebMD responded.
“Incarceration is NOT a place of autonomy nor a place with adequate medical care. This is coercive and disrespectful,” @madgeofhonor wrote. “Impacted people reading this reaction is “??!!??” Our first focus MUST be on decarceration + dignity. Incarceration only causes further harm including this policy.”
“Prisoners should be able to donate life-saving bone marrow and organs if they wish, but incentivizing it through good time is coercive,” @NoCopsNoMasters wrote. “There are people willing to pay a kidney to get out of prison, but that is not a choice they should have facilitated by the government.”