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Condemned Oregon Prisoner Launches Organ Donation Campaign

Christian Longo murdered his wife and three young children, stuffed their bodies in suitcases and sleeping bags and tossed them into the ocean off the Oregon coast in December 2001. Afterward he attended an office pizza party then fled for the sunny beaches of Cancun, Mexico. Posing as New York Times reporter Michael Finkel, Longo partied with a German woman who was there on vacation until the FBI caught him in January 2002. He was returned to Oregon, convicted, and on April 16, 2003, he was sentenced to death.

Finkel, who was fired from The Times in 2002 for fabricating a character for a feature story, became obsessed with Longo, writing a book called True Story about Longo’s horrific crimes and Finkel’s fall from grace. More recently, Finkel wrote about Longo’s life on death row for Esquire magazine.

Longo was depressed and thinking of dropping his appeals so he would be executed, according to Finkel. That changed, however, when Finkel suggested that Longo become an organ donor.

“Longo was astounded,” Finkel claimed in Esquire. “When he read my letter, he told me, something inside him clicked. A switch was thrown. He felt an enthusiasm he hadn’t experienced in years. He felt inspired.”

“He’s pretty invested in this,” says Longo’s attorney Tom Bustwick. “He’s trying to see what other states are doing and have done. He’s reasonably intelligent, compared to some of them. It gives him something to do.”

Longo named his project “GAVE,”—“Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone”—and started a website called with his brother’s help. He sent an 18-page memo to prison officials seeking permission to personally become an organ donor and advocating that all of America’s 2 million prisoners be afforded the same opportunity.

“Anatomical gifts can be made at two stages: a living donation and a donation at death,” Longo wrote in his memo. “Both types are vital to provide for survival where there are no other options for those in need of an organ due to the unfortunate shortage in the United States. I believe it’s a realistic goal to be able to give at both stages as a willing inmate on death row and for altruistic inmates in general.”

Prison officials acknowledge that Longo has requested approval to become an organ donor—either while alive or after he is executed. “The department looks at organ donation on a case-by-case basis,” said Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Spokeswoman Jennifer Black. She could not think of any previous case when a prisoner was allowed to donate an organ, but she recalled one prisoner who was allowed to donate bone marrow to a sick relative.

“If someone needs a bone marrow transplant or their mother needs a kidney and there’s a match, then there’s no reason that can’t go forward,” said Black. “But it’s not just a blanket ‘yes.’ All offenders can give part of their body away to somebody else. It has to be for the right reasons and the right person and all that.”

Money is apparently high on the list of wrong reasons. “That’s a big concern,” said Black. “We obviously don’t want offenders selling their organs.”

Longo may be high on the ODOC’s list of wrong people as well, given ODOC’s fear that Longo’s request may spark public outrage because of the heinous nature of his offenses. Still, Longo “likes the idea of getting some publicity,” according to his lawyer Harry Latto.

Source: Statesman Journal

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