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Two State Representatives in Massachusetts have tabled a new bill that would allow prisoners to have their sentence reduced if they donate an organ or bone marrow. Under the proposal, incarcerated individuals would be able to get between 60 days and a whole year off their prison sentence after donating. The sponsoring lawmakers have defended the legislation arguing it would help the state expand the pool of viable donors and “restore bodily autonomy to incarcerated folks.”

Garcia noted there is “currently no path to organ or bone marrow donation for incarcerated folks in MA—even for relatives.”

She insisted subscription to the scheme would be “voluntary” and the State would “recognize incarcerated donors’ decision by offering a reduced sentence.”

Rep Gonzalez said the proposal would also provide minorities in Massachusetts a higher chance of finding an organ because of the makeup of the current prison population.

He told Motherboard: “Hispanics and African Americans have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease.

“Broadening the pool of potential donors is an effective way to increase the likelihood of Black and Latino family members and friends receiving life-saving treatment.

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According to the latest data, 27.76 percent of prisoners in Massachusetts are Black, and 29.23 percent are Latinx.

But the proposal sparked an ethical debate on the inherent power imbalance between prisoners and the prison system, with some suggesting it could lead to “exploitative practices”.

“Their freedom to choose is based not on their will to help others but on the condition that takes advantage of their emotional distress. This is what makes the bill unethical.”

Caburog added: “Moreover, convincing prisoners to donate organs can be very risky for transplant recipients.

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“Prisoners do not have the best health conditions due to limited access to good nutrition and increased exposure to serious infections and environmental hazards.

“Though medical tests are required before the donation, some diseases can only be detected at the latter stage. The state should never put recipients at this kind of risk because it does more harm than good in general.”

And Business Law and Ethics Professor Nicholas Creel told this paper the State should instead work under “the opt-out principle of organ donation” instead of pursuing “unethical policies.

Prof Creel said: “Dangling the promise of freedom to those prisoners who choose to depart with their organs or marrow might get us the result we need by bringing supply thereof closer in line with demand, but it does so through means that are unseemly.

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“Prisoners are in a highly imbalanced power dynamic with society, they lack agency in that they do not have anything approaching liberty and they live in abysmal conditions.

“So most anything that takes advantage of that dynamic in order to get them to compromise their bodily autonomy is going to be unethical.”

He added: “A more ethical option would be for the US as a whole to begin working under the opt-out principle of organ donation, where everyone is by default an organ donor unless they take steps to remove themselves from consideration.

“So long as opting out of donation is easy, we don’t violate the principle of bodily autonomy and we avoid the sort of ethical pitfalls that the state of Massachusetts is running head first into right now.”

“Prisoners are in a highly imbalanced power dynamic with society, they lack agency in that they do not have anything approaching liberty and they live in abysmal conditions.

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