In 1993, Ronald Phillips raped and killed his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. On Thursday, he was scheduled to be executed, until Ohio governor John Kasich delayed his execution so he could come to a decision whether Philips' request for his organs to be donated should be fulfilled.
Calling it "uncharted territory," Kasich explained that the state would have to reach out to medical ethicists before coming to a decision about whether the organs should be harvested.
"Organ donation is the stuff of heroes and altruists and generous people. It doesn't mix with death row inmates," Art Caplan, a medical ethicist at the NYU Langone Medical Center told ABC News.
Among the many issues raised by Phillips request (which is rare for a death-row inmate) are whether the state would be exploiting a person it is killing. This would get especially ugly if the inmate were to be taken from transplant hospital to transplant hospital, having non-vital organs removed from them. Transplants after death by lethal injection would be nearly impossible, as the injection causes organ failure.
In 2011, a death-row inmate in Oregon asked for his organs to be donated, explaining in a New York Times op-ed, "I am 37 years old and healthy; throwing my organs away after I am executed is nothing but a waste." His request was denied.
Phillips would like to give a kidney to his ailing mother, and a heart transplant to his sister. He is also open to other organ donations if they are needed.
"What we're principally looking at now is him donating organs he can donate while alive and then safely return [him] to the prison to wait for the execution date," his attorney said.
Ohio expects to have a decision prepared within eight months.