The Scott Sisters Are Free. What Now?
After spending 16 years in Mississippi jails for “their alleged role in a robbery in 1993 in which no one was hurt and $11 supposedly was taken,” the Scott sisters left prison yesterday.
Their freedom, however, comes at a price: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour agreed to the release of the sisters on the condition that Gladys Scott donate her kidney to her sister, Jamie, within one year.
That condition has stirred significant controversy and raised many legal and medical ethics questions.
For example, the Austin American-Statesman:
Let’s be clear on what is happening. A governor has ordered a woman, as a condition of release from prison, to give up an organ. It’s a troubling concept, one you’d read about in a story from a nation with a checkered history on human rights.
The horror of it is not lessened by the fact that the kidney donation was Gladys Scott’s idea. This is a voluntary donation, assuming it happens (at this point there is no guarantee of compatibility). Gladys Scott is to be lauded for her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her sister.
But there still is no reason for Barbour to have included it as a “condition” of release for the sisters. The nonsense of it is not lessened by the fact that Barbour’s office subsequently said Gladys Scott would not be returned to prison if, for any reason, the transplant does not happen.
What now? According to the AP:
The sisters are moving to Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle to live with their mother. They hope to qualify for government-funded Medicaid insurance to pay for the transplant and for 38-year-old Jamie Scott’s dialysis, which officials said had cost Mississippi about $200,000 a year. A few doctors have expressed interest in performing the transplant, but there are no firm plans yet.
And what if Gladys changes her mind or if there is a compatibility problem?
Barbour has not directly answered questions from The Associated Press about whether he would send Gladys Scott back to prison if she changes her mind or if she is not a suitable donor for her sister.
However, Lumumba and Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have said the governor’s office assured them the transplant condition of release would not be enforced. And the American Society of Transplantation has called on Barbour to base his decision to release Gladys Scott on legal merits — not her willingness to donate an organ.
“The decision to donate an organ should be a truly selfless act, free from coercion and not conditioned on financial or any other material gain,” the society’s president, Dr. Maryl R. Johnson, said Friday.
Read more here.