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Doctors and medical ethicist discuss whether doctors should participate in capital punishment
Date:9/4/2007

ors oppose doctors' participation in capital punishment, arguing that the Hippocratic corpus 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," says 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 www.mayoclinicproceedings.com.


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Contact: John Murphy
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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