I was recently thinking about the 1998 movie Desperate Measures where a prisoner serving a life sentence, McCabe, happens to be a very rare DNA donor match for the son of a police officer, Connor, who has leukemia.
It got me to thinking, how much leverage does such a prisoner have? Let’s say he has extremely rare marrow or some thing that can be donated (without him dying,) and an extremely important person - perhaps even the President himself, or a member of the First Family - needs it in order to live. Can the prisoner negotiate himself a pardon or commutation in return for donating his marrow or blood? Is that even legal? Let’s say he’s the only person in the world known to be a suitable donor match.
Who knows? AFAIK such a thing has never come up. Of course it could be legal(ish): The President (or Governor) could dangle a pardon in front of the prisoner as incentive for their co-operation. Is it right? No. Is it legal? Maybe.
For a look at other variations on a theme, read Larry Niven’s A Gift From Earth and The Patchwork Girl, along with Gil the ARM. In them he posits widespread organ transplant capability, and the difficulties this technology causes society.
The prisoner is entirely free to choose whether or not to donate his body tissues, on whatever basis he feels like making that decision. The question is not how much autonomy he has; it’s how much autonomy whoever he’s dealing with has.
If he’s on federal charges, and it’s the President who wants his marrow, I don’t think there’s any Constitutional objection to the two of them arranging a deal of marrow-for-pardon. Likewise, if he’s on state charges, most governors have similar power. Whether either or both of them would agree to such a deal is up to them.
Removing the VIPs and pardoning bits, could a prison block a vital organ donation to a prisoner’s family member? We’ll say the prisoner is in favor of the donation and will return to prison to serve the remaining sentence.
What about the possibility of a Judge ordering a blood donation by the prisoner, over his objections?
That is more problematic. But I know almost all convicted criminals are now required to provide a DNA sample for the records (and fingerprints have been collected for decades). Despite the objection of prisoners. A Judge certainly can’t order a free citizen to donate blood. But convicted criminals have many of their civil rights restricted (like free movement. etc.) – might freedom to refuse blood donations be one of those restricted?
I don’t see this being Judge-ordered for a single person, even someone high up like a President’s child. But what if it was a wide-spread danger to society? Say prisoner X’s blood happens to contain a natural immunity to a new Polio epidemic?
See the aforementioned stories by Niven. He postulates advancements in transplant technology that enables doctors to transplant just about anything but the brain. So society starts breaking death row inmates down for parts instead of wasting the material that could keep people alive. Very soon the death penalty is extended to scofflaws who ignore traffic tickets, serial jaywalkers and the like. Organ-legging becomes a very profitable crime.
Joan Baez, in her song Bangladesh, refers to such an incident: Did you read about the army officer’s plea
For donor’s blood? It was given willingly
By boys who took the needles in their veins
And from their bodies every drop of blood was drained
No time to comprehend and there was little pain
Presumably there is an actual incident that is the origin of these lyrics.
What leverage a prisoner has is very dependent on who is negotiating and their powers. I imagine one scenario is “refusal to voluntarily donate will not go over well at your next parole hearin”. (Presuming there is a chance of freedom). Plus, the prisoner could in retaliation be moved to a really bad facility far from family. So leverage goes both ways.
I imagine the warden has the right to block a voluntary donation, but I suppose bad publicity does not go over well with government institutions, especially if the dying patient is photogenic.
In my state, inmates cannot be compelled to donate blood, tissue, bone marrow, etc. unless such testing would benefit a victim of said inmate.
That’s because otherwise, court orders for any sort of evaluation/intervention/treatment hinge upon imminent risk to the inmate’s life/limb etc.
I sincerely doubt any court would force an inmate to submit to any medical procedure (other than cheek swabbing for DNA analysis or blood/urine testing to see if they had blood-borne pathogens or STDs that they may have passed on to an assault victim) if it was only to benefit someone who was not a victim of a crime of theirs.
My experience is limited only to one state, but I’m not inexperienced in what it takes to get a court order to force evaluation/treatment.
I have had inmates act as donors for such things as bone marrow and kidney recipients. That is allowed, IF the inmate wants to do it. The recipient’s health insurance generally needs to cover the costs, though.
Maybe, but I would imagine that the mindset of someone who is locked up in prison is that they would want something in return, like a commuted sentence. (I wouldn’t blame such an inmate in the least if so)
Firstly, the prisoners I have known have demonstrated a normal range of human compassion.
Secondly, the prisoners I have known have had no expectation – none – that anything they do will be met with any kind of moral or rational response. The prison system lacks both the desire and the capacity to do binding deals with inmates.