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."