A former Cayuga County resident serving an 18- to 40-year state prison sentence for rape and sodomy is on a heart donor list and is undergoing a heart transplant evaluation at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
According to officials with Mercy Flight Central, Coxsackie Correctional Facility inmate Kenneth L. Pike was flown from Albany to Rochester Monday, and hospital officials confirmed that a Kenneth Pike is at the hospital and is listed in guarded condition.
Theresa Breezee, Pike's niece, said Pike is being evaluated for a heart transplant and will most likely die without the procedure.
Pike, 55, has already been treated for at least one heart attack, has a pacemaker and underwent a triple-bypass within the past month, Breezee said.
It was not immediately clear how much the procedure would cost the state if it is conducted.
Pike was convicted at trial in Cayuga County Court in 1996 of first degree rape, first-degree sodomy and third-degree rape for raping and sodomizing a 12-year-old child.
According to DOCCS, Pike is eligible for parole in November 2013, and his latest release date is set for November 2035.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's organ transplant system, said federal laws prohibits the organization from discriminating against patients based on non-medical conditions, such as their criminal record or incarceration status. But local transplant organizations and the state can set their own guidelines, a UNOS spokesman said. Many medical professionals believe that such guidelines can create ethical problems that go beyond a person's medical needs.
Officials with the state Department of Correctional and Community Services said federal medical privacy laws prevent them from talking about specific cases, but noted that four inmates have received organ transplants in the past. Seven others have received bone marrow transplants.
In a written statement, Strong Memorial Hospital officials said, "As a provider of health care to a large and diverse population, we have an ethical responsibility to treat everyone who comes to us in need of care. Strong Memorial Hospital doctors, nurses and staff members are committed to providing that care without discrimination. We believe in and follow the organ allocation policies and guidelines of the federally regulated OPTN/United Network for Organ Sharing, which ensure equal consideration for transplantation and access to donated organs."
Breezee understood that some people are mad that their taxes could pay for her uncle's procedure if it's ultimately conducted, but added her uncle should not be denied medical treatment because of his criminal record.
"I think he should be treated just like anyone else," Breezee said. "Even though he is an inmate he shouldn't be denied treatment -- he is still a human being. And my family will also be paying since our taxes will be going to his treatment, too."
State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, who chairs the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, said he believes inmates should have to pay for a portion of their medical treatment through a co-payment system similar to ones used in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and the federal prison system.
Nozzolio, whose district includes part of Cayuga County, said a co-payment system would save taxpayer money by preventing frivolous medical treatment and could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year in medical expenses.
In cases of transplants, Nozzolio said there are other issues the state needs to look at such as whether there are any other possibly non-incarcerated recipients who were examined first before an inmate receives a transplant.