R.I. Prison Inmate gets Liver Transplant

By: Melissa Toupin

mtoupin@abc6.com

Wayne Gonsalves has been on the organ transplant waiting list for 3 years. The Providence man was diagnosed in 2008 with liver disease and has been hoping for a new one ever since.

It's the same organ Jose Pacheco, an inmate at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, received in a transplant this week.

“Naturally the first instinct is some jealousy and some envy,” said Gonsalves.

Pacheco is the first Rhode Island prisoner to undergo an organ transplant. He is serving a 6 1/2 year sentence for robbery.

Gonsalves says he could be angry, but instead feels compassion for the 27-year-old inmate.

“I wish I could take that liver for myself, but I cant because it wasn't deemed necessary for me,” said Gonsalves.

Valerie Filkins has been at her son's side since his diagnosis. She has watched as Wayne went from a hard working man to someone who could barely stand with out the help of cane.

“I wish it was my son…of course,” said Filkins.

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections says the exact cost of the procedure is unknown. Liver transplant operations can cost more than $1 million. The bill will likely be paid for by Medicaid and you, the tax payer.

The U.S. Supreme Court says denying medical care to prisoners who need it, is considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Despite any monetary cost Filkins says what people need to think about is the value of life.     

“He probably has a family,” said Filkins. “I do feel that if he can get a liver and help him have a better life, oh yes. Definitely.”