[The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday on a sedative medication that prisons have used as a lethal injection drug, potentially violating death row inmates’ rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Although the drug may have contributed to a series of botched executions in 2014, one death row inmate has benefitted from the controversy. He remains at the center of a medical, legal and ethical debate.
On November 13, 2013, prison officials transferred Ronald Ray Phillips from death row, where he had resided for 20 years, to the “death house” in southern Ohio. He had finally run out of appeals. In less than 24 hours, they would strap him to a gurney and inject a fatal drug combination into his veins. Just days before his scheduled death, however, Phillips made an unprecedented request—one that has kept him alive until today. He asked to give his heart to his sister, who had a heart condition, and his kidney to his mother, who was on dialysis.]