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

arguments in favor of participation. "Acknowledging the ability of physicians to reduce needless risk to the condemned," they conclude, "we believe the most that can be fairly said is that physician participation neither fully advances the ethical ideals of medicine nor is strictly anathema to them."

Lawrence Nelson is an associate professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University and a faculty scholar in the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Brandon Ashby is a graduate student with the faculty of philosophy at Oxford University, Lady Margaret Hall.

In their report, the authors find that arguments for and against physician participation in executions often get conflated with arguments about the broader question of the ethics of capital punishment. While they acknowledge that "reasonable people of good faith may disagree on the morality and efficacy of capital punishment," the fact is that lethal injection executions continue to occur-- with little prospect of ending soon. Forty such executions took place in the United States in 2010 and eight during the first two months of 2011. Over 20 are scheduled for the remainder of 2011.

The report examines the role that the state expects the physician to play. A newly opened facility in California, for instance, cost over $800,000 and is designed solely for performing executions efficiently, humanely, and in accordance with constitutional requirements. Yet the roles specified for the physicians in the California regulations involve activities expressly barred by the American Medical Association's Code of Ethics.

"As far as we can determine," Nelson and Ashby write, "no physician has lost his or her ability to practice medicine or been dismissed from a professional medical organization as a result of participation in executions." But this may change. In February 2010, the American Board of Anesthesiology ruled that no anesthesiologists may "participate in capital punishment if they wi
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Contact: Michael Turton
turtonm@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x242
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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