The state of Mississippi leapt headlong onto the slipperiest of slopes as it is reportedly making  kidney donation a condition of parole for a convicted armed robber. As documented by the Associated Press, Mississippi’s Governor Haley Barbour suspended the life sentences of two sisters convicted in 1994 of the armed robbery that netted them $11.00.

In a move that would undoubtedly satisfy even Shakespeare’s vengeful Shylock, Barbour made the 36-year-old Gladys Scott’s release contingent on her giving a kidney to Jamie, her 38-year-old sister, who requires daily dialysis.

Providing a new twist to the concept of “a pound of flesh” the action is being treated with an astounding level of indifference and even being hailed.

Barbour’s spokesperson, Dan Turner, is quoted as stating, “She wanted to do it,” Turner said. “That wasn’t something we introduced.”

Scott’s lawyer seemed less than troubled by the conditional release. “I think it’s a victory,” said the sisters’ attorney, Chokwe Lumumba. “I talked to Gladys and she’s elated about the news. I’m sure Jamie is, too.”

Even the NAACP (the sisters are Black) got on the bandwagon with Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson stating the Scott sisters’ release will be “a great victory for the state of Mississippi for two individuals who received an excessive sentence” and he has no problem with the kidney donation requirement because Gladys Scott volunteered.

State meddling into proscribed surgical procedures in the name of societal good is certainly not a new concept. According to Learn NC, an education program sponsored by the University of North Carolina, during the 1920s and 1930s, public health officials, politicians, and scientists in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe began promoting the idea of eugenics – a “science” based on the belief that human populations could be improved through selective breeding.

Learn NC goes on to state that “In 1933, North Carolina began a program of forced sterilization that would last until 1974. Over four decades, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized by order of the North Carolina Eugenics Board. Initially, most people who were sterilized had a mental illness or what we would now call intellectual disabilities. Most of these individuals lived in state-run hospitals or other institutions.”

Since when are these actions OK as long as the parties involved agree?  Where is the cry as to the precedent this sets or the historical atrocities we seem doomed to repeat?

It makes me wonder if a kidney will get one paroled from an armed robbery charge, will a slightly used spleen earn a pass for murderers? Governor Barbour?

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender is a recent corporate refugee whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is the City Life Editor for Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Pangur Ban Party and others.

You can find more of his work at his website and also at his blog.