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Physician participation in lethal injection executions should not be banned, argue 2 ethicists
Date:6/9/2011

(Garrison, NY) Should physicians be banned from assisting in a lethal injection execution, or lose professional certification for doing so? A recent ruling by the American Board of Anesthesiology will revoke certification of anesthesiologists who participate in capital punishment, and other medical boards may act similarly. An article in the Hastings Center Report concludes that decertification of physicians participating in lethal injections by a professional certifying organization goes too farthough individual physicians and private medical groups like the AMA are entitled to oppose the practice and may censure or dismiss members who violate it.

Physician participation in execution by lethal injection has always been controversial. All 34 death-penalty states use lethal injections for executionsand 33 of these allow or require physicians to participate. Kentucky is the only state that forbids physicians from participating in lethal injection executions. In 2008, when the Supreme Court upheld, in Baze v Rees, Kentucky's execution process as constitutional, the path seemed clear for lethal injections to proceed without physician involvement. But this didn't happen. As Lawrence Nelson and Brandon Ashby report in their article, "the protocols for almost all states still leave a place for physicians, apparently on grounds that physicians have the special ability to help the prisoner die swiftly and quietly, making the execution more humane for the prisoner, more efficient overall, and (to be frank) less disturbing for everyone who witnesses or has a hand in it."

The authors review the arguments against physician participation, particularly that it is inconsistent with the goals of medicine to help and not harm peopleand that the record of botched executions constitutes one of the strongest
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Contact: Michael Turton
turtonm@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x242
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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