Navigation Links
Doctors and Medical Ethicist Discuss Whether Doctors Should Participate in Capital Punishment

ROCHESTER, Minn., Sept. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Should doctors be involved in the state-ordered administration of capital punishment? In the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, three anesthesiologists and a medical ethicist take an in-depth look at this question in a commentary and two editorials.

None of these articles debate whether capital punishment is justifiable. Instead, the authors explore the current position of the American Medical Association (AMA), which prohibits physician participation in legally authorized executions. Here are a few highlights of the arguments presented in these articles.

In a commentary article, David Waisel, M.D., an anesthesiologist practicing at Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, asserts that it is time to reassess the AMA's position on this issue and allow doctors to participate in state-mandated executions to help provide the condemned a more humane path to death. Dr. Waisel cites numerous details about the technical problems associated with lethal injection, the form of capital punishment most commonly used in the United States today. Dr. Waisel reasons that doctors, possess the skills to administer the medications used in lethal injections in a manner that prevents undue suffering.

"If state administration of capital punishment is legal and ongoing, humane methods of execution should be sought and applied. It is honorable for physicians to minimize the harm to these condemned individuals and organized medicine has an obligation to permit physician participation in legal execution," he writes.

Two editorials that follow Dr. Waisel's commentary arrive at the opposite conclusion. In one editorial, William Lanier, M.D., editor in chief, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, and Keith Berge, M.D., who are anesthesiologists at Mayo Clinic applaud Dr. Waisel for "bringing forward this emotional issue so that it can be pondered and discussed by a broad audience." But the authors oppose doctors' participation in capital punishment, arguing that the Hippocratic oath that guides doctors prohibits medical professionals from assisting in executions.

"In the case of capital punishment, we believe that whatever theoretical good might emerge from a successful and well-executed judicial killing, there is certainly harm in causing the death of a person under a physician's care," say Drs. Lanier and Berge.

Drs. Lanier and Berge propose replacing the anesthesia-related drugs currently used in lethal injections with personnel and tools that are "clearly distinguished from representing medical care."

In a second editorial, Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, also argues against the participation of doctors in execution. Dr. Caplan asserts that a doctor does not have a duty to alleviate the suffering of a condemned person unless that prisoner has a previous medical relationship with that doctor.

"It seems a bit late for physicians to step forward in the context of an execution and say they are motivated by a duty of mercy given that many prisoners suffer miserably because of the poor state of prison-based medicine," says Dr. Caplan.

Dr. Caplan also suggests that involving doctors in capital punishment may affect the overall moral standing accorded the practice of execution because "physician prestige and the respect afforded medicine are in part transferred to executions when physicians are involved."

Dr. Caplan asserts that physicians are not needed to serve as executioners using lethal injection because "... governments and societies committed to execution using this technique can achieve this goal by properly training executioners."

The commentary and editorials on this topic are available online at

A peer-review journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes original articles, reviews and editorials dealing with clinical and laboratory medicine, clinical research, basic science research and clinical epidemiology. Mayo Clinic Proceedings is published monthly by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research as part of its commitment to the medical education of physicians. The journal has been published for more than 80 years and has a circulation of 130,000 nationally and internationally. Articles are available online at

To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to ( is available as a resource for your health stories.


John Murphy

507-284-5005 (days)

507-284-2511 (evenings)


SOURCE Mayo Clinic
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Cancer Doctors Okays Controversial Prostate Therapy
2. Doctors needed urgently in Gujarat
3. Doctors operate upon patients in candlelight- latest from the quake scene
4. Two doctors suspended for wrong brain surgery
5. Doctors at risk- the ugly side of the noble profession
6. Lure of the home turf brings back NRI doctors
7. Thakur warns doctors
8. Negligent doctors asked to cough up 3 lakhs for death of patient
9. Doctors advice early anemia tests
10. Emphasis to ban Drugs ads by Doctors
11. Doctors not to accept gifts from drug companies
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/10/2015)... ... October 10, 2015 , ... Well-known Eastern ... to be recognized by The National Law Journal for inclusion in their second ... firms across the United States who obtained the largest awards for their personal ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... California (PRWEB) , ... October 09, 2015 , ... ... Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education J. Michael ... of the Year Award. Finley was selected for his impact on graduate medical ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... ... October 09, 2015 , ... With the FCPX LUT Vibrance pack from ... A LUT is a Lookup Table that contains a mathematical formula for modifying an ... table. This pack comes with 60 vibrant CUBE LUT files. , Inspired ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... ... October 09, 2015 , ... Smoke alarms can save lives. In fact, ... risk of dying in reported home fires in half. As part of Fire Prevention ... are property installed and maintained. , Half of home fire deaths result from fires ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... ... , ... Head Over Heels Athletic Arts gymnast, Madelyn Williams, will attend the ... in Huntsville, Texas on October 17-21. , "It's very exciting to be invited ... executive director, said. “It's a stepping stone into the U.S. elite system where Maddie ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
... Neuroscientists at MIT,s Picower Institute of Learning and Memory have ... inexplicably linked to long-term memories. The work is slated to ... "Our finding explains, at least partially, why seemingly irrelevant ... person is remembered as vividly as more significant information such ...
... HealthDay Reporter , THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- This winter ... instead is turning out to be a more typical flu season, ... to get a flu shot, advice that seniors in particular should ... their age group the hardest, the experts added. The H1N1 flu ...
... for Injury Biomechanics ( ) has been awarded ... Research and Materiel Command for phase 2 of an ... military personnel. Specifically, blast induced brain trauma will be ... helmet design and body armor and the resulting reductions ...
... Liverpool-led consortium has received $1.5million from the Bill & ... serious disease and epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa. Streptococcus ... in sub-Sahara Africa. The funding will enable scientists ... associated with invasive pneumococcal disease, why it spreads so ...
... HealthDay Reporter , THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay ... by patients and health professionals alike to save money ... and potentially dangerous, a new study suggests. Belgian ... deviated from recommended dosages by 15 percent or more. ...
... HealthDay Reporter , WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- ... said Tuesday, breathing on her own and moving both arms ... "She has a 101 percent chance of surviving," Dr. ... told the Associated Press . "She will not die." ...
Cached Medicine News:
(Date:10/8/2015)... Oct. 9, 2015 Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: ... immunogenicity clinical trial in Sierra Leone ... Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. Trial recruitment is underway, and the first ... first study conducted of Janssen,s Ebola prime-boost vaccine regimen in ... Sierra Leone,s Kambia district, where ...
(Date:10/8/2015)...  Ardelyx, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARDX ), a ... diseases, today announced that clinical data for the ... at the 2015 American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) ... sustained response in IBS-C patients enrolled in the ... trial. The meeting will be held in ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Oct. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... cell-free molecular diagnostics, today announced the presentation of ... use of its Precision Cancer Monitoring SM ... can be critical for physicians to determine appropriate ... chief scientific officer of Trovagene is delivering the ...
Breaking Medicine Technology:
... February is American Heart Month and a time when ... on their family history of heart disease and recommit ... teaming up with the makers of Bayer® Aspirin and ... to raise $100,000 for the fight against heart disease. ...
... 2012 Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: AUXL ... the Leerink Swann 2012 Global Healthcare Conference to be ... New York City.  Mr. Adrian Adams, Chief Executive Officer ... the Company and its product pipeline at 10:30 a.m. ...
Cached Medicine Technology:
... ARUP Laboratories is a national reference laboratory ... research and development. ARUP offers an extensive ... medical tests in clinical and anatomic pathology. ... Laboratories' clients include more than half of ...
... a national reference laboratory and a worldwide ... ARUP offers an extensive test menu of ... clinical and anatomic pathology. Owned by the ... more than half of the nation's university ...
... reference laboratory and a worldwide leader in ... an extensive test menu of highly complex ... anatomic pathology. Owned by the University of ... half of the nation's university teaching hospitals ...
... reference laboratory and a worldwide leader in ... an extensive test menu of highly complex ... anatomic pathology. Owned by the University of ... half of the nation's university teaching hospitals ...
Medicine Products: