The story reported last week by my colleague Nate Robson that a former Cayuga County resident now serving a prison sentence at an Albany-area correctional facility was flown to a Rochester hospital for a heart transplant evaluation has made its way around the state.
Other media outlets have picked up the story across New York and now, a state senator is calling for a special hearing to investigate organ transplants for prison inmates.
State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, who represents the 54th Senate District that includes a large portion of Auburn and most of Cayuga County and chairs the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, is calling for the special hearing as a result of this news.
The inmate, Kenneth Pike, is serving 18 to 40 years in prison for raping and sodomizing a 12-year-old. Pike has had a heart attack and underwent triple-bypass surgery earlier this month, according to Nate's reporting and one family member says Pike may die if he doesn't receive the transplant.
"These reports raise a multitude of questions that demand and deserve answers for New York taxpayers, potential organ donors, and law-abiding families who are still waiting for life-saving transplants," Nozzolio said. "We cannot allow law abiding citizens to be denied transplants in favor of dangerous violent offenders, convicted of heinous crimes, who may never leave prison. It is essential that the public is provided a clear and complete understanding of the current state and federal policies and guidelines for organ transplants."
No date and time has been announced for the hearing, but Nozzolio said representatives from the state Department of Corrections, the United Network for Organ Sharing, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state Department of Health and state organ donation and transplant organizations will be asked to testify at the hearing.