Taxpayers may pay $800,000 to give a life-saving heart transplant to an upstate rapist whose crime of incest was so "grotesquely criminal" that a prosecutor said he should "rot in prison."
If doctors give the OK, Kenneth Pike, 55, would be the first New York prisoner to get a heart transplant. Pike was flown Monday from the state prison in Coxsackie to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where 49 patients are awaiting donor hearts.
Pike is serving an 18-to-40-year sentence for sexually assaulting a teenage relative in Auburn. He's eligible for parole in 2013.
A sister and a niece say news of Pike's possible heart transplant has renewed family divisions over the crime that occurred 17 years ago.
But the sister, Sharon Cardinal of Auburn, says the family agrees that Pike should have the transplant if doctors decide he's eligible for one.
"He's doing his time, but he's still a human being. He still has rights," said Cardinal, who disputes the victim's account of the crime, and is convinced Pike is innocent.
"He should be treated as much as any other person," Cardinal said. "And these people complaining about the taxpayers' cost -- well, we are taxpayers, too. We're paying for it."
In this case, the hospital fees will come from taxpayers.
"The policy is pretty simple: We are constitutionally obligated to provide health-care services to the inmates," said Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services. "They basically receive the community standard of care."
The prison system has agreements with hospitals across the state on how much it will pay for various treatments, Cutler said. If a prisoner needs treatment outside of those agreements, the state will pay hospitals at Medicaid rates.
Officials couldn't say yesterday exactly how much Medicaid would pay for a heart transplant. But an organ donors' group says the full treatment for a heart transplant -- including surgery and seven months in a hospital -- costs around $800,000.
Lots of law-abiding Americans have no way to pay for a heart transplant, and rightly wonder why such care would be offered to prisoners, said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethics expert at the University of Pennsylvania.
But the cost is not the doctors' concern.
"Medicine's ethic is to help people," Caplan said. "Even in war, we try to treat people who are trying to kill us. The ethic -- and I think it's a good one -- is you treat people in need, and don't worry about their character and their past."
Vital organ statistics
$800,000 typical cost
3,147 waiting nationwide
273 waiting in New York
2,333 performed in United States last year
* Three kidneys, one liver and seven bone marrow transplants have been given to NY prisoners over the years
Sources: United Network for Organ Sharing, NY State Department of Correctional Services
In: Regional News
Tags: Ken Pike, Why We Should Execute Child Rapists, Why Liberals Shouldn't Be Allowed To Vote
Location: New York, New York, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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