VOLUNTARY EXECUTION
FOLLOWED BY ORGAN DONATION


SYNOPSIS:

    Voluntary execution could replace all forms of capital punishment.
Instead of putting people to death against their will
for the crimes they have committed,
we can sentence them to life imprisonment
with the option of voluntary execution after at least one year in prison.

    Murderers who admit their crimes should be offered
an additional means of making amends:
They should be permitted to donate their organs after execution,
so that a few people who would otherwise die from organ failure
would be given a new lease on life.

OUTLINE:

1.  VOLUNTARY EXECUTION
.

2.  SAFEGUARDS TO MAKE CERTAIN
            THE CHOICE OF DEATH IS REALLY VOLUNTARY.

       A.  Clear and Consistent Confession of the Crimes.

       B.  Clear and Consistent Wish to End One's Life by Voluntary Execution.

       C.  Ten Other Safeguards Used for Ordinary Life-Ending Decisions.

3.  ORGAN DONATION WILL TAKE PLACE
            AFTER EXECUTION AND CERTIFIED DEATH.

4.  A NEW DEFINITION OF DEATH MIGHT BE NEEDED:
            PERMANENT UNCONSCIOUSNESS.

5.  BRAIN-DEATH MIGHT HAVE TO BE DECLARED.

6.  PROCEDURES FOR HARVESTING ORGANS
            AFTER VOLUNTARY EXECUTION.

7.  SEVEN LIVES CAN BE SAVED BY ONE VOLUNTARY EXECUTION
            FOLLOWED BY DONATING ALL THE VIABLE ORGANS.






VOLUNTARY EXECUTION
FOLLOWED BY ORGAN DONATION


  by James Leonard Park

     The death-penalty is older than civilization.
Even before the beginning of recorded history,
we have evidence of human beings killing other human beings
who belonged to their own group or tribe.
Some of these executions were probably for crimes such as murder.

    During historic times, we have actual records
of people who were put to death for their evil behavior.
Each civilization defines certain crimes as so terrible
that the perpetrators of such crimes deserve to die.

    But in modern times, there has been a distinct turn away
from "capital punishment", as the penalty of death is sometimes called.
Much has been made of mistakes and distortions
of the criminal-justice systems on the planet Earth
which have resulted in people being executed
who should have been allowed to live. 

    But future civilizations could replace
the death-penalty with voluntary execution.
Might it be possible to create a system of voluntary execution
that would be so fool-proof that even some of the people
who previously opposed the death penalty
would embrace this new form of punishment?




1.  VOLUNTARY EXECUTION.

    When Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens,
he was offered two options: exile or voluntary execution.
He could live the rest of his life away from his homeland.
Or he could drink the hemlock and die.
He chose to drink the hemlock.

    As far as we can discover from Plato's account of the death of Socrates,
there was no coercion to force hemlock down Socrates' throat.
He freely accepted the execution offered to him,
even tho he did not agree that he had been corrupting the youth of Athens.

    In our time, voluntary execution should first be offered
to people who really have committed capital crimes
and who freely confess their crimes.

    After a few examples of murderers who chose their own dates of execution,
we might open the more surprising option
of voluntary execution for other prisoners.

    Should we allow the option of voluntary execution
to all prisoners who would otherwise spend the rest of their lives in prison?
For example, after conviction and sentencing,
imprisoned terrorists could be permitted to choose voluntary execution.
They could spend the rest of their natural lives in prison
or they could end their lives after at least one year of imprisonment
by choosing the option of voluntary execution.

    Voluntary execution could be exercised at any time in the prisoner's life.
Some prisoners would probably decide to live for several years in prison
and then to end their lives by means of voluntary execution
when they were nearing the natural end of their lives.
Under any system of voluntary execution,
the prisoner should decide the date of execution.




2.  SAFEGUARDS TO MAKE CERTAIN
            THE CHOICE OF DEATH IS REALLY VOLUNTARY.

    We should create safeguards for voluntary execution
to make certain that the choice of death is truly free.
Some opponents of all forms of execution
will insist that no prisoner is able to make a free choice to die.
Could the initial opponents of this plan create workable safeguards
they would find satisfactory to prove
that the prisoner is making a completely free choice
—no manipulation, no coercion,
& no defect of thinking that might lead to a premature death?

    Another way to look at this possible problem with voluntary execution
is to ask how we can prevent prisoners from committing suicide.
Irrational suicide is probably a very common impulse
among prisoners with long sentences.
How can we prevent suicidal prisoners from using 'voluntary execution'
as a way of committing irrational suicide?
With good safeguards to prevent irrational suicide,
this possible misuse of voluntary execution
should not be an insurmountable barrier.

    When the prisoner requests voluntary execution,
he or she would explain the reasons for this choice,
assuring the authorities who must carry out any voluntary execution
that this choice is a rational and free decision to die.




        A.  Clear and Consistent Confession of the Crimes.

    Our modern criminal-justice system is aware
that sometimes people confess to crimes they did not, in fact, commit.
Therefore, it is necessary to present evidence of the crime
that goes beyond the confession of the person charged.
The confession might have been manipulated or coerced in some way.
Sometimes people confess to protect loved ones who did the crime.
And sometimes these false confessions were unnecessary
because the relative under suspicion did not commit the crime either.

    False confessions must be ruled out
before any criminal conviction is handed down.
And even during the term of imprisonment,
the system should keep looking for false confessions.

    Murderers are asked to reveal facts about their crimes
that only someone who was actually present could have known.
Physical evidence at the scene might prove who did the crime.

    When both the evidence and the confession point in the same direction,
then we should feel confident about going ahead with voluntary execution
if death is the punishment chosen by the confessed criminal.

    Sometimes people charged with crimes confess
and later recant their confessions.
The psychology of such situations can sometimes be quite complicated.
For this reason, the confession must be clear and consistent.
This means that over a period of several months,
the person convicted of the crimes continues to confess
that he or she did the crimes for which he or she was justly convicted.




       B.  Clear and Consistent Wish
            to End One's Life by Means of Voluntary Execution.


    Once a prisoner has settled into life in prison,
he or she could consider the option of voluntary execution
at any date at least one year after sentencing. 
Or after the first formal request for death,
should the prisoner have at least one year to reconsider?
Setting the date of execution for at least one year later
should provide enough time to work out any problems.
The chosen date of execution could be 
any time during the expected term of imprisonment
up to and including during the final illness of the prisoner.

    A simple and sensible way to make sure that the prisoner
really wants to choose voluntary execution
is to have him or her write a letter by hand each month for at least 12 months,
admitting the crimes and re-affirming the desire to die by voluntary execution.

    Each expression of guilt and the desire for voluntary execution
must be a fresh re-statements of the facts of the crime
and the decision to choose voluntary execution.
Merely copying previous statements would not be satisfactory proof
that the prisoner is making a new decision this month.
Each month the prisoner must freely
admit the crime in whatever detail would be appropriate
and choose voluntary execution as the final punishment.

    These freely-written letters should be sent to someone
who is completely neutral on all issues related to this case.
This should not be a public official
or anyone associated with the criminal-justice system.
Judges and wardens can usually be trusted.
However, such persons who are parts of the criminal-justice system
should not be used because of even the smallest doubt
concerning their involvement in choosing voluntary execution.

    One method to ensure these are free expressions of the prisoner
is to have him or her send similar letters (not photocopies)
to three or more trusted persons outside the system each month.
These persons should remain available to testify
that they did indeed receive the letters
on the dates indicated in the letters and the postmarks on the envelopes.

    Copies of such letters requesting voluntary execution
might also be sent to outside organizations opposed to capital punishment.
And these organizations might try to change the mind of the prisoner,
convincing him or her that dying is not the best option.

    If someone can think of better ways of documenting
the prisoner's consistent wish to die by means of voluntary execution,
let all such suggestions be implemented if they are workable.
In what other ways could a prisoner prove
that he or she is freely and wisely choosing a voluntary execution?

    Would video statements be convincing than hand-written letters?
Or could the prisoner make recorded telephone statements
indicating his or her continuing desire to die by voluntary execution
for crimes that he or she really did commit?

    If there is any reason to doubt the prisoner's decision-making capacity,
then a professional in some relevant field of psychology
could be called upon to evaluate the state-of-mind of the prisoner
confirming both that the prisoner really did the crime
and that the prisoner can make a wise decision for voluntary execution.

    This question is explored in more detail in the following on-line essay:
"Can a Prisoner Ever Make a Free Choice?"
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/FREE-PRI.html




          C.  Ten Other Safeguards Used for Ordinary Life-Ending Decisions.

    A related on-line article discusses 10 additional safeguards
that might be applied to make sure that every voluntary execution
is really a free and uncoerced decision by the confessed murderer:
"Voluntary Execution: Better than Capital Punishment?".

    Here these additional safeguards will simply be named and linked.
"Voluntary Execution: Better than Capital Punishment?"
explains further how each applies to the option of voluntary execution:

B. REQUESTS FOR DEATH FROM THE PATIENT

C. THE PATIENT IS MENTALLY CAPABLE OF MAKING A LIFE-ENDING DECISION

H. UNBEARABLE PSYCHOLOGICAL SUFFERING

J. INFORMED CONSENT FROM THE PATIENT

K. REQUESTS FOR DEATH FROM THE PROXIES

N. STATEMENTS FROM FAMILY MEMBERS
            AFFIRMING OR QUESTIONING CHOOSING DEATH

O. A MEMBER OF THE CLERGY APPROVES OR QUESTIONS CHOOSING DEATH

R. STATEMENTS FROM ADVOCATES FOR DISADVANTAGED GROUPS
             IF INVITED BY THE PATIENT AND/OR THE PROXIES

U. WAITING PERIODS FOR REFLECTION

V. OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PATIENT
            TO RESCIND OR POSTPONE ANY LIFE-ENDING DECISIONS




3.  ORGAN DONATION WILL TAKE PLACE
            AFTER EXECUTION AND CERTIFIED DEATH.



    Living prisoners have long volunteered for medical experiments.
But this must be sharply separated from organ donation from the dead.
Some paired organs such as kidneys,
regenerating organs such as parts of the liver,
& regenerating fluids such as blood and blood-products
can be donated without harm to the donor.

    But when we are talking about donating a heart
or other vital organs
we know that it is not possible for the donor to live without those organs.
Therefore, we do not harvest such organs from people who are still alive.
Any such harvesting from living donors would cause their deaths.

    In the case of voluntary execution,
the prisoner who has repeatedly agreed to being executed
can also (separately) agree to donate his or her
reusable organs, tissues, & fluids after death.

    The voluntary execution must take place at a recordable time and place.
A licensed physician must certify in writing that the prisoner is now dead.
Only after death has been certified and recorded
should the prisoner's body pass into the hands of transplant surgeons
who will then proceed to remove the organs that can save other lives.

    The time between the certification of death
and the donation of organs can be mercifully short.
But there must be some separation between death and donation.
This fulfills the dead-donor rule in transplant medical practice.
See The Dead-Donor Rule: How Dead Do You Have to Be?
 
    Because the date of voluntary execution can be set months in advance,
the transplant team can prepare to harvest the reusable organs.
And the suffering people who will receive the organs
can also be identified and prepared.
But these preparations do not eliminate the prisoner's
right to rescind or postpone the choice of voluntary execution
up until the last moment of consciousness.




4.  A NEW DEFINITION OF DEATH MIGHT BE NEEDED:
            PERMANENT UNCONSCIOUSNESS.


    Some methods of voluntary execution will harm the donated organs
more than other means of bringing death.
For example, we would not want lethal drugs in donated organs.
Likewise, electrocution would damage the organs beyond any further use.
A firing squad could be told just where to aim,
but this would still seem a barbaric method of killing,
especially when the prisoner has agreed to donate organs after death.

    The best means of voluntary execution might be general anesthesia.
But the purpose of administering these drugs to cause unconsciousness
would be different from the purpose in all other surgeries:
Here the drugs would be intended to create a sleep so deep
that the prisoner would have no possibility of ever awakening.
Another doctor besides the anesthesiologist
could know the dose of drugs used
and could certify that the prisoner is now dead
because of permanent unconsciousness.
Some neurological tests might be included
to make sure that consciousness could never return.

    This new definition of death will require new thinking in medical ethics,
but there are other good reasons for allowing at least some people
to choose permanent unconsciousness as their preferred definition of death.

    Here is a bibliography of books exploring new definitions of death:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/B-DEF-D.html
The present author's preferred definition of death is permanent unconsciousness,
as explained in his Advance Directive for Medical Care:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/AD-OUT-NET.html
Scroll down to:

Question 19Which definition of death should apply to you?        152

    A.    Brain-Death.                153
    B.    Coma or Permanent Unconsciousness.            154
    C.    Persistent Vegetative State.            155


    Surgeons are very familiar with operating on unconscious bodies.
This has been the general practice of surgery for well over a century.
(Before then, surgeons had to be assisted by several strong men,
who held the patient down while the surgeon cut as quickly as possible.
And the most talented surgeons were those
who could complete their cutting and sewing within a few short minutes.
And, of course, many patients died from the trauma of the surgery itself.)

    Nowadays, anesthesia can keep the patient in such a deep sleep
that he or she will never feel a thing,
no matter how extensive the surgery must be.

    If a neurologist can certify that the prisoner
has been rendered unconscious to such a deep degree
that it would be impossible for consciousness ever to return to this body,
then the law could allow this physician to declare the prisoner dead.

    Any determination and certification of death must be independent
of whatever might happen to the body after death.
The warden of the prison will have fulfilled his or her function
of overseeing the execution:
The prisoner is completely and irrevocably dead.
An execution has been achieved in fulfillment of the law.




5.  BRAIN-DEATH MIGHT HAVE TO BE DECLARED.

    If permanent unconsciousness is not an acceptable definition of death,
then the prisoner who is volunteering for execution
might have to be rendered brain-dead
before organ-donation could proceed.

    Brain-death is universally acknowledged as a sufficient condition
for proceeding with organ donation.
And "brain-death" has become a widely-used expression
in medical ethics, organ-transplantation, & even the mass media.
People who might oppose harvesting organs
from prisoners who have been rendered permanently unconscious
would probably have no such objections
to harvesting organs from prisoners who are certified to be brain-dead.

    And if we pay attention to how the mass media will cover such events,
donation from a "brain-dead" murderer will arouse less public opposition
than accepting organs from a murderer who is permanently unconscious.

    Thus, the first voluntary executions to be followed by organ donation
will probably have to require that the prisoner be declared brain-dead
before any organ-transplants can take place.

    Also medical personnel do not always accept modern medical ethics.
Some nurses, for example, might refuse to participate in a transplant
from an inmate who is certified to be permanently unconscious.
But these same medical people would not object to recycling the organs
of an inmate who has been certified to be brain-dead.
When brain-death has been declared by a doctor (or several doctors),
everyone must agree that the prisoner is absolutely and permanently dead.

    Experienced transplant-teams should have no problems harvesting organs
from a body that has been certified to be brain-dead.
In fact, this is their preferred way to receive transplantable organs:
The organs are kept alive in the body of a brain-dead donor.
With mechanical assistance, the heart is still beating,
the lungs are still breathing, and the body is still warm.

    The practical differences might be small.
But philosophical and religious beliefs do count for something
when we are dealing with the end of a human life.
A permanently unconscious donor
would look like any other patient anesthetized for surgery.
There would be at least one tube attached to the body.
And a brain-dead body might have several forms of 'life-support'.

    What degree of death is required for organ donation?
See: The Dead-Donor Rule: How Dead Do You Have to Be?
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/CY-DEADD.html




6.  PROCEDURES FOR HARVESTING ORGANS
            AFTER VOLUNTARY EXECUTION.


    Wherever laws require executions to take place inside prisons,
these laws could be modified (or exceptions could be made)
as needed for the purpose of allowing organ-donation.

    The prisoner should be asked one last time
if he or she wishes to rescind or postpone
the decision for voluntary execution,
which will be followed by organ donation. 
If the prisoner is still willing to go forward with these plans,
the prisoner can be put under constant sedation
so that he or she will never have another thought or feeling.
A licensed physician will certify the time of death.
In fulfillment of the criminal law, a voluntary execution has taken place.
The body can then be transported to the medical center
where the organs will be harvested.

    In order to assure a tasteful transition from life to death
and in order not to traumatize the surgeons and nurses
who must care for the prisoner's body after voluntary execution,
could the body be kept unconscious, beginning while still in prison?
Then the transplant center would only receive a comatose body,
similar to the many bodies they already deal with
who were victims of tragic accidents.
These mangled bodies are keep under sedation
in order to prevent even a moment of suffering.
And some victims of accidents
have already been declared brain-dead.

    Likewise, the prisoner who has chosen voluntary execution
will never be awake in the transplant center.
And so, he or she will never have been known at the medical center
as anything other than a body
never known as a living person.

    There will be some medical personnel
who want nothing to do with voluntary execution.
And, of course, they will be allowed to absent themselves
from any part of the care of the comatose or brain-dead prisoner.
Only those nurses and doctors who voluntarily agree to participate
will be part of any of the procedures.
These medical professionals see the great benefits to the living
from allowing organ-donation even from confessed criminals
who have freely chosen voluntary execution as their way to meet death.

    Another possible similarity between voluntary execution
and other pathways towards death is the practice of terminal sedation.
It is now possible to keep a dying patient completely unconscious
until natural death occurs.
The medical knowledge learned from inducing terminal coma
might be applied to the situation of voluntary execution.

    Once it becomes absolutely certain that this brain
will never have another moment of consciousness,
will never have another thought or feeling
—or even a dream-like experience
then death can be declared on the basis of permanent coma.
And the planned organ-donation can proceed.

    (In order to prevent the crime-fiction scenario
of voluntary execution being used as a ruse to escape,
some representatives of the prison staff might have to be present
to make sure that the unconscious prisoner is not rescued by others
before permanent and irrevocable unconsciousness is achieved
that is, up until the official moment of execution.
Once death has been determined and certified by an independent doctor,
the time and date of death will be recorded
and the prison guards can leave.)

   In order to identify the best recipients for the organs to be donated,
there will probably be a period of perhaps a few days
in which the body of the executed prisoner
will be evaluated in the transplant center.
This is similar to evaluating the bodies of other brain-dead donors.
Now that the prisoner has officially been declared dead,
which of the patients waiting for transplantable organs
will make best use of these organs newly available?

    Here is the final scene for this scenario of
voluntary execution followed by organ donation.
The steps must proceed in this order:
(1) The final drugs are administered to the prisoner being executed.
(2) Permanent coma has been certified.
      (Or brain-death has been certified.)
(3) Death has been declared on the basis of permanent coma.
      (Or brain-death has been declared and recorded.)
(4) The time and place of execution have been recorded.
(5) Then the organs of the dead-donor can be transplanted.

 
   Even more details about these possible procedures will be found here:
"Brain-Death Protocol for Voluntary Execution followed by Organ Donation":
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/BDP-VX.html




7.  SEVEN LIVES CAN BE SAVED BY ONE VOLUNTARY EXECUTION
            FOLLOWED BY DONATING ALL THE VIABLE ORGANS.


    When talking with the potential donor,
no physical or financial benefits to the prisoner will be offered.
The donations after voluntary execution cannot benefit the prisoner.
But he or she can offer life-saving benefits
to patients who would otherwise die.
The voluntary execution of the prisoner
can finally lead to something good.
The donor will no longer be alive to know personally
those who will benefit from his or her anatomical gifts.
But he or she can know in advance
that voluntary execution followed by organ-donation
can be the greatest gift he or she ever offered to anyone else.
How many prisoners will take advantage of this possibility
of redeeming themselves by giving up their lives?
Who else ever has the possibility of saving up to seven lives
with one self-sacrificing decision?

    These benefits of organ-donation bear repeating:
By one choice, the prisoner can be certain to save several other lives.
These patients waiting for transplants will otherwise die
because there are never enough organs to save everyone in need.
The voluntary execution of the confessed prisoner is one death accepted.
But this choice saves several other people from certain death.
Who else can know for certain that sacrificing his or her own life
will save the lives of so many other people?



Created 5-29-2009; Revised 6-4-2009; 6-6-2009; 6-11-2009; 9-3-2009; 9-10-2009; 9-14-2009;
3-1-2010; 3-19-2010; 2-5-2011; 11-11-2011;
4-20-2012; 10-3-2012; 10-10-2012; 3-24-2013; 9-6-2013;10-3-2013;
2-3-2014; 1-21-2015; 9-1-2016; 1-31-2018; 3-29-2019; 


AUTHOR: 

    James Leonard Park is an independent philosopher,
living and writing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Much more about him will be discovered on his website:
James Leonard Park—Free Library

    See closely-related on-line articles:

"Voluntary Execution: Better than Capital Punishment?"

"Can a Prisoner Ever Make a Free Choice?"

"Brain-Death Protocol for Voluntary Execution followed by Organ Donation"




OPEN LETTER TO THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS
OF A CONDEMNED PRISONER
WILLING TO DONATE ORGANS AFTER EXECUTION




ORGANS FROM THE EXECUTED
This is the first essay (drafted in 2001) by James Park about organ-donations from death-row.



ORGAN DONATION AFTER EXECUTION
This is a portal linking to many other resources on the Internet.



A Facebook Page has been created:
Prisoner Organ Donation.
This group welcomes participation by anyone
interested in organ donation from prisoners:
prisoners who have Internet access, family members, friends,
lawyers, prison authorities, transplant surgeons, medical ethicists, journalists, & students.

The above essay recommending that voluntary execution be followed by organ-donation
has now become Chapter 2 of Organ Donation After Execution
.
This Internet Book was discussed chapter-by-chapter
on Prisoner Organ Donation
in 2014.




Go to the Medical Ethics index page.



This chapter also appears in
Medical Ethics at the End of Life.


Go to other on-line essays by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.



Go to the beginning of this website
James Leonard Park—Free Library