In late 2001, Christian Longo murdered his wife and three children. The gruesome details are well documented elsewhere. Let it suffice to say that nobody, let alone children, deserve to die the way they did, especially at the hands of their own father.
Longo murdered his family because he was broke and felt trapped. His business failed, he racked up enormous piles of debt, he moved his family from place to place to avoid creditors, and finally decided he simply did not want to bear the burden of supporting a family of five. He killed his family and fled to Mexico to live under an assumed identity until his capture, trial, conviction and sentencing to death in 2003.
In Canada, there is no death penalty. My personal feelings lead me to believe that the death penalty is wrong and that a just and civilized society does not need to use execution as a punishment. But when I read about crimes like this, I will admit that I waver. A man who annhilates his family and murders his own children… there is a special place in hell for that kind of man, and I doubt there is any hope of redemption.
Longo, however, believes there is a way to find that redemption – at least in some form. Longo described, in the March 6 New York Times, a suggestion to change the law around organ donation by executed inmates. Currently, no organ donation is permitted, primarily due to the fact that the drugs used to execute inmates destroy the organs in the process. However, there are other drugs that would not destroy organs, and Longo is lobbying the state government to use these drugs in order to allow organs to be donated.
Longo’s point is well taken. Every day, people die waiting for an organ transplant. If inmates are permitted to donate organs, it would provide a new and welcome source to save lives, and to allow convicted felons to at least do some good as their last act; a kind of apologetic redemption.
However, the issues are myriad, with the primary issue being, would anyone want to receive an organ from a convicted murderer, and one who had been executed at that? Indeed, an organ from such a source would have advantages, such as the ability to thoroughly pre-screen the donor prior to donation. But the emotional and mental burden borne by the recipient could be significant. To owe your life or health to a man who, in this example, murdered his family and still shows no remorse would be its own burden. However, would that burden be a consequence that someone who is dying for an organ be willing to make?
There is also the worry that the system could be abused, and felons coerced to donate their organs. Finally, there’s the persistent feeling that giving convicted felons like Longo what they want means that ultimately, they somehow win.
Still, the fact remains that organ donations are needed every single day to save lives. Is this something that should be considered? And what would be the ramifications?