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Wednesday, September 9, 1998

Prison officials won't let death row inmate donate organs

AUSTIN (AP) - A death row inmate facing execution next month has been blocked by Texas prison officials from donating his organs.

Convicted killer Jonathan Nobles is scheduled to die Oct. 7 for stabbing and killing two Austin women, Kelly Joan Farquhar, 24, and Mitzi Johnson Nalley, 21, after breaking into their North Austin home in 1986.

Nobles told the Austin American-Statesman he is prepared to die for what he did but also wants to do something positive after "bringing so much darkness into this world." He insisted the donation attempt is not a ploy to have his death sentence commuted.

"People out there who need organs are more than willing to accept inmate organs," Nobles said. "There are sins of commission as well as sins of omission, and for me not to attempt to do whatever I can that's good is wrong of me."

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has an organ donation policy for inmates that says the state will pay for transportation to a Galveston hospital for the surgery and cover the costs of guarding a prisoner.

But Larry Todd, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the policy doesn't apply to death row inmates.

"Death row inmates are not allowed to donate organs," Todd said. "We don't let death row inmates out - end of story."

Larry Fitzgerald, another spokesman for the prison system, said prison officials are concerned about the unpredictable nature of both surgery and the justice system.

What if there are complications during or after surgery? What if a death row inmate donates a kidney and has the other fail, then receives a stay of execution?

Outside the prison walls, no one in the "organ-harvesting" world wants to touch organs from a death row inmate because of fear of passing on disease, ethical concerns about taking organs from condemned inmates and the fear of public backlash.

The Centers for Disease Control consider inmates a high risk for hepatitis, the AIDS virus and other communicable diseases.

Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctor who has helped people commit suicide, tried to arrange the donation of one of Nobles' kidneys, and found a surgeon to perform the transplant. But Nobles and the woman were not a blood-type match, and she died without getting a transplant.

The woman's sister, Crystal Webb, said Nobles "brought death to two women. The least he can do is give life to somebody else."

"I mean, they're putting these men to death anyway," Webb said. "Why can't they put them to sleep and take their organs?"

Paula Kurland, the mother of Mitzi Nalley, spoke out against the kidney transplant.

She said Nobles lost his rights, including the right to donate organs, when he murdered her daughter.

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