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Organ Transplants For Inmates?

The issue of prisoner rights is not something many of us like to think about. Many Americans feel that inmates deserve humane treatment - but no more than that - until their debt to society has been paid.

But does humane treatment include potentially life-saving medical care?

Hundreds of inmates in federal and state prisons need kidney or other organ transplants. But only a handful have any hope of ever getting one. That's because federal prison policy, and rules in most states, almost never allow prisoners to receive such surgery, even when there's a willing donor.

It's not a matter of cost. Prisons are already paying up to $40,000 a year for prisoners with kidney problems to receive dialysis treatment three times a week. Transplant surgery, although expensive, can be cheaper for taxpayers in the long run.

It's also a lot better for the patient. Even though some people on dialysis live for decades, it's hard on the body, and the death rate is very high: about 23 percent per year. Compare that to just three percent for transplant patients.

Many believe the no-transplant policy is fair. With close to 40,000 people waiting for kidneys, why should one be given to a convicted law-breaker?

Inmates, however, call the policy cruel and unusual punishment. They say even those given short prison terms for relatively minor crimes, can end up with death sentences as they watch their hope of a transplant slip away.

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