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Should Physicians Facilitate Lethal Injection Executions?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Nada El Garhy, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Nada El Garhy

    Nada El Garhy Golden Member

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    Many believe that physician participation in lethal injection is a clear violation of the Hippocratic ethic.


    There is continued debate in the medical and legal communities regarding physician participation in the execution of prisoners who have been sentenced to death. This issue typically receives renewed attention following events such as the legalization of physician-assisted death in Canada and 6 US states, as well as Washington, DC.1,2 Some have questioned why physician-assisted death should be allowed for general citizens but not for death row inmates.3

    In addition, there have been numerous botched executions in the United States — including at least 10 in the last decade alone. Several states have come under fire for their use of the controversial sedative midazolam in lethal injections, which resulted in prolonged and painful inmate deaths. In the case of one Oklahoma inmate, after it took an hour to find a vein for the first injection, a supervising physician (whose participation is said to be in violation of various sets of professional ethics) “announced that the inmate was unconscious, and therefore ready to receive the other 2 drugs that would actually kill him,” according to a 2017 report from the Death Penalty Information Center.4 “Those 2 drugs were known to cause excruciating pain if the recipient was conscious. However, Mr Lockett was not unconscious.” A few minutes after receiving these injections, the inmate was writhing, breathing heavily, and clenching his teeth. He died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the process began.

    This example further called into question the belief that lethal injection is a more humane, relatively painless method of execution. Following the Oklahoma case, a group of legal experts called the Death Penalty Committee of the Constitution Project issued 39 recommendations for reforming the current approach to lethal injection. One of the recommendations calls for jurisdictions to “ensure that qualified medical personnel are present at executions and responsible for all medically-related elements of executions.”5 While some doctors and other experts support this concept, others view it as a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

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