The Jigsaw Man Comes to America?

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The Jigsaw Man Comes to America?

Posted: 8th March 2007

The Jigsaw Man is a 1967 science-fiction short story by Larry Niven (you can read it in the collection: Tales of Known Space). In the story, criminals convicted of capital crimes are forced to donate all their organs to be used as spare body parts, thus saving the lives of others and repaying their debt to society. However, although the law was initially enacted with the good intention of making the death penalty less of a waste, the demand for organs subsequently caused legislators to repeatedly lower the bar for execution. In short, it's a story of good intentions leading down a bad path. If you read the story, I promise that you will never forget it.

In the news today is that South Carolina is considering giving prisoners time off their sentences if they voluntarily donate organs or bone marrow. When one thinks of people suffering and dying because of lack of available organs, it's hard not to be in favor of any initiative that will help. Additionally, participation is supposed to be voluntary (as voluntary as anything can be in prison), and I don't imagine that there is going to be a lot of sympathy for the prisoners in the media in any case.

However, when I read the news story, I couldn't help but think of The Jigsaw Man...



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