The execution of a child killer in Ohio has been delayed as authorities discuss whether they can donate his organs to his family members after his death.

Ronald Phillips was granted a delay of execution just 24 hours before he was to be put to death for murdering and raping his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter in 1993.

While on death row, Phillips made a last minute request for his organs to be donated to his sick family. Phillips' mother has kidney disease and his sister has a heart condition, according to his attorney.

His original request had been denied by the state. The prisons department added they were not "equipped to facilitate organ donation pre- or post- execution".

However, Ohio governor John Kasich has now delayed the execution of Phillips while he looks into whether his request for his organs to be donated can be granted.

"I realise this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen," said Kaisch.

Phillips has denied suggestions the request is merely a delaying tactic, but an attempt to make a final gesture for good.

If Phillips is found to be a suitable kidney donor for his mother, or anyone else on the waiting list, the operation would be performed and he would be sent back to death row.

It is believed that Phillips' offer to donate his heart to his sister would not be possible under the governor's directive since the heart is a vital organ.

Marilyn Pongonis, a spokeswoman for the Lifeline of Ohio organ donation program, said: "Organ donation occurs following brain death and the organs are maintained on a ventilator. When a prisoner is executed, the oxygen stops flowing, the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing.

"It just wouldn't be possible."

His execution by lethal injection, which will involve an untested two-drug combination which has been untried in the US, has been rescheduled for 2 July.