By Doug Livingston
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has flatly denied an Akron child killer’s request to donate his organs either before or after his scheduled execution Thursday, citing safety and legal concerns.
Cleveland attorney Timothy Sweeney, on behalf of Ronald Phillips, wrote to the state Monday requesting that his client be permitted to donate his organs to relatives: a mother on dialysis with kidney disease and a sister with a heart condition.
The state responded Tuesday.
“The last-minute request made by Mr. Phillips and his attorney is unprecedented. DRC has reviewed the options and has determined that the Department is not equipped to facilitate organ donation pre- or post-execution. DRC considers this to be a private matter between inmate Phillips, his family and his attorneys,” said JoEllen Smith, spokesperson for the department.
Legal counsel for the state did leave open the possibility of a post-mortem organ donation, but the state would not be performing the operation.
According to paperwork filed by Phillips, his remains are to be given to his family, who then may pursue organ donation.
“The state contracts with a funeral director, who will take possession of Mr. Phillips’ body and transport it to the funeral home. At that point, Mr. Phillips’ family will be given possession of Mr. Phillips’ body, and presumably the family may take whatever action they wish with the physical body, including pursuing organ donation,” wrote Stephen C. Gray, chief counsel for the state corrections department.
Phillips was sentenced to death in 1993 for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, Sheila Marie Evans, in Akron.
About 30,000 Ohioans on the organ donor waiting list, with 1,700 living in Northeast Ohio, according to Lifebanc, a Cleveland nonprofit organization that provides education to the public on the benefits of organ and tissue donation.
Lifebanc’s Ohio operation stretches across 20 counties from Sandusky to Youngstown and south to Canton.
Phillips’ execution in southern Ohio would fall well outside Lifebanc’s area, said Jillian Frazier, director of development and community services. However, she added that “an executed inmate has never been a donor in the U.S.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.