A condemned child killer’s execution has been delayed so officials can study the feasibility of the man’s request to donate his organs.
Ohio governor John Kasich’s decision came less than 24 hours before 40-year-old Ronald Phillips was scheduled to die for raping and killing his girlfriend’s three3-year-old daughter in 1993.
His lethal injection, using a two-drug combination untried in the US, has been reset to July 2.
Mr Kasich said that while Mr Phillips’s crime was heinous, his willingness to donate organs and tissue could save another life and the state should try to accommodate a donation.
“I realise this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen,” Mr Kasich said in a statement.
If Phillips is found to be a viable donor to his mother, who has kidney disease and is on dialysis, or others awaiting organ transplants of non-vital organs, those procedures would be performed and then he would be returned to death row, the governor’s office said.
It appears that Phillips’s offer to donate his heart to his sister, who suffers a heart ailment, would not be possible under the governor’s directive, since the heart is a vital organ.
Phillips made his request to be an organ donor on Monday after he had been denied mercy by Mr Kasich and his other legal options were exhausted.
He says it was not a delaying tactic, but an attempt to do good.
Phillips had been moved to Ohio’s death house, but a prisons spokeswoman said he will be returned to death row to await the assessment’s findings.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, said Delaware death row inmate Steven Shelton was granted a request in 1995 to donate a kidney to his mother while in prison, though he was not facing imminent execution.
Vital organ donations raise larger ethical issues and have so far not been allowed during US executions, Mr Deiter said. They have occurred in China, he added.
Mr Dieter, whose group opposes the death penalty, said: “If the whole idea is to save a life, there’s one life to be saved simply by not executing the person at all.”