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'Conditioned on' kidney donation, sisters' prison release prompts ethics debate

The Washington Post, January 3, 2011

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has announced that he will grant an early release from prison to two sisters serving unusually long sentences for armed robbery. Gladys and Jamie Scott have each served 16 years of life sentences. Their case had become a cause celebre among civil rights groups, including the NAACP, which mounted a national campaign to free the women. Civil rights activists said they welcome Barbour's decision. But an unconventional aspect of the arrangement is drawing scrutiny from medical ethicists: Barbour said his action was "conditioned on" one sister donating a kidney to the other. Barbour agreed this week to suspend their sentences in light of the poor health of Jamie Scott, 38, who requires regular dialysis. The governor said in a statement that 36-year-old Gladys Scott's release is conditioned on her giving a kidney to her inmate sibling.