April 24, 2011
Heart Transplant For Rapist?

Kenneth Pike might become the first prisoner in New York state to get a heart transplant. What is your reaction to that?

Taxpayers may pay $800,000 to give a life-saving heart transplant to an upstate rapist whose crime of incest was so "grotesquely criminal" that a prosecutor said he should "rot in prison."

If doctors give the OK, Kenneth Pike, 55, would be the first New York prisoner to get a heart transplant.

This report brings to mind a larger issue that looms in our future: Once it becomes possible to do full body rejuvenation what to do about the most dangerous criminals who have been sentenced to 50, 100 or longer (yet finite) in jail? Keep them alive with rejuvenation?

For those who oppose the death penalty a question arises: If a killer is allowed to grow old naturally and die of natural causes does that constitute a (admittedly slow) death penalty? If death by old age won't be morally acceptable to you given the existence of rejuvenation therapies then do you favor basically infinite incarceration? If not, what alternative do you suggest?

Imagine it becomes possible to do cell therapy or nanobot therapy to the brain of a serial killer or pedophile that would make them extremely averse to committing a serious crime. Would you oppose or support use of such a therapy to allow a criminal to be released from jail?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 24 11:14 PM  Bioethics Debate

Ben said at April 25, 2011 12:57 AM:

Why not give them the choice? Indefinite imprisonment if they are still dangerous, or thereapies to "rewire" their criminal impulses. Or some other demonstration of rehabilitation.

Mike Anderson said at April 25, 2011 4:25 AM:

$800K for this degenerate? How about we cut him up for parts and MAKE some money off him?

Kent Gatewood said at April 25, 2011 6:50 AM:

Didn't James Earl Ray need a liver transplant? He didn't get it.

Dan said at April 25, 2011 7:12 AM:

Stick them in a cryo-chamber (a-la "demolition man") and reprogram their brains while you're at it. Tech shold be available round-about the time lifespan becomes indefinite...

K.A. said at April 25, 2011 8:13 AM:

Here here, Mike! That's a much saner plan.

PacRim Jim said at April 25, 2011 8:53 AM:

This is not the same America I once knew. It's now bereft of even common sense. Very sad.

Lono said at April 25, 2011 9:12 AM:

It would be utterly absurd for tax payer money to be spent in this fashion.

That being said - prisoners could surely be a good testing ground for free but highly experimental voluntary life saving surgeries.

I don't know if I agree that prisoners should be released if a cure is found for their condition - but certainly their participation in a curative procedure should be considered favorably in their parole hearings.

Eventually I do feel that we will need to be somewhat dispassionate about crimes committed by deviants who can positively be cured by treatments - with most probable offenders identified early on in childhood and treated before such a criminal predisposition fully expresses itself.

In the future - if a man can easily be made to be a useful productive citizen - what do we profit in jailing them once they have been properly cured?

(I would imagine that repeat offenders would be considered incurable however and therefore never again given freedom - short of a new scientific breakthrough)

Lou Pagnucco said at April 25, 2011 10:11 AM:

The money would be better spent on research to extend longevity or enhance intelligence.

As long as it was a voluntary decision, there is no reason to stop someone from improving their brain with stem cells, surgery, pharmaceuticals, etc., after risk has been reasonably determined.

If a criminal brain can be modified, without damaging cognitive function, to remove anti-social/psychopathic tendency, then why continue to treat its host as a criminal? Obviously, though, "Brave New World" issues arise. We may first need better bureaucracy.

theBuckWheat said at April 25, 2011 10:15 AM:

This is yet one more complication of socialized medicine. We do not have infinite financial resources and in the case of government, any spending is a zero sum game. When people are dependent upon government for their needs, we must maximize the benefit to all even if this causes government to deny full care to a small number. And it is for exactly this reason that ObamaCare (tm) must be repealed. Society does not owe a prisoner any means to extend their lives while in custody. Had this person not committed the crime, they would be able to enjoy one of the benefits of full liberty, which is to have sufficient health insurance. (Putting aside how ObamaCare (tm) destroys that option for all of us in the future)

Abelard Lindsey said at April 25, 2011 1:16 PM:

Its possible that this prisoner, himself, may have declined the transplant and accept death instead, which is essentially suicide and the state may be forcing him to undergo the operation. The article makes no hint of this but it is certainly plausible. The reason for such a situation is rooted in the nature of bureaucracy. When a convicted criminal is sentenced to prison, the intent of the state (and of the justice system) is to make him spend the required time in prison. If the prisoner commits suicide while in prison, this circumvents the intent of the state and, as such, renders moot the state's control over that person. This is anathema to bureaucratic nature of the state, even though it may save the taxpayers money and death is considered the ultimate penalty for criminal activity. The purpose of the state is to make sure that the criminal spends the required time in the prison. If once released, the criminal commits suicide, the state doesn't care because it is no longer responsible for the criminal.

This is the real reason why prisons actually spend considerable money and effort to prevent suicides by the prisoners. The power of the state is assumed ultimate status, even if it requires the sacrifice of considerable money and even keeping alive, at great expense, those that are better off dead.

Lobo Solo said at April 25, 2011 3:39 PM:

Randall, you're not giving us the whole story. The man is eligible for parole next year.

And who cares what the prosecutor thinks about how long he should have been sentenced. Prosecutors work for the DA who is a politician. You could have just as easily put in his sister's opinion who disputes the victim's account of the crime and is convinced that Pike is innocent.

We have a legal system but I wouldn't call it a justice system. I know a man right now who is serving 10-20 for allegedly committing a similar crime. He always said that if people would just tell the truth that it would be all over. Recently these people went before the judge and told the truth but the judge said that they are lying because they want him released. Whatever happened to reasonable doubt?

Lou Pagnucco said at April 25, 2011 8:33 PM:

Lobo Solo,

Valid points. I know several innocent victims of the "justice" system.

Paul Craig Roberts has exposed this institutionalized corruption in several essays.

We need a "Prosecutors Gone Wild" reality show.

tommy said at April 29, 2011 4:54 AM:

Infinite confinement is not an option because the costs of incarcerating a growing number of immortal prisoners approaches infinity.

WJ said at April 30, 2011 5:41 PM:

It makes me question the wisdom of making my organs available for donation after death. Other stories have done so, as well, like the one about the illegal immigrant on her 4th publicly-funded heart transplant, or the Japanese crime boss who came to the US for a transplant. There is a severe shortage in the donor market already. Donors' survivors get paid exactly nothing for the gift, and in some cases there may even be costs involved. Simply make incracerated individuals ineligible for transplants as well as any other elective treatments, including rejuvantive therapies. The final say though, as always, rests with our robed masters.

heartfelt said at May 18, 2011 10:16 AM:

Dear WJ

I've worked in the transplant field for 25 years. I just wanted you to know that there are absolutely no costs passed on to the donor or their family members associated with donation. And as for not being paid, you are right. And while I think that there is room for that possibility in the future,you need only look at the results of such lax regulation in other countries. It's not the Saudi billionaire that sells his kidney, it's the poor family that needs to feed their children that will consent to selling the kidney, eyes and other "nonvital" tissues and organs of their children. It's hard to blame them when opportunities for economic advancement are so limited in so much of the eastern world. If you have something marketable, you market it. But is this fair and humane? If we could find a way that this doesn't exploit the poor and maybe more importantly, their children, then we should proceed. Until then, it's a slippery slope I'd rather not climb. And BTW I don't think the prisoner should get the transplant. Everyday insurance companies (including govt funded ones) make decisions to deny procedures to people that need them. If this patient needs it, let him be released from prison, get a job, get some insurance and at least participate in paying for the cost of his care. I realize he may succumb before that happens but there are no stop-gap measures that may keep him alive long enough that don't carry such a price tag. We the taxpayers, are not a bottomless pit of money. There needs to be some fiscal prudence applied here. I wonder how many under-privileged kids can have access to better medical care with that 800k?

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