Thursday, 8 February 2007

Doctor rule in execution law yanked

Doctor rule in execution law yanked

Physicians no longer must be present
By Megan Myers
Published: February 8, 2007

PIERRE - The House passed a measure Wednesday that removes doctors' involvement from the lethal execution process.

HB1160 strikes a provision from state death penalty law that requires the prison physician and two other state-licensed doctors from being present at executions.

House Majority Leader Larry Rhoden of Union Center, sponsor of the bill, said the bill was brought at the request of doctors. The American Medical Association recommends doctors not be involved in executions, as it could violate the Hippocratic Oath that calls for physicians to "do no harm."

"Our South Dakota physicians have asked to be removed from the state's process," Rhoden said.

The death penalty debate has arisen this session because the execution of convicted murderer Elijah Page was postponed last summer. Gov. Mike Rounds halted the proceedings because state law calls for the use of two drugs in lethal injections, while the method now commonly accepted uses three drugs.

Page is scheduled to be executed in July.

Rep. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, introduced an amendment to the bill that would require video and audio recordings be done of the execution "to preserve the integrity" of the proceedings.

The recordings would not be made available to the public.

Rhoden called the amendment another "attempt to take a shot" at the death penalty.

"It's invasive and offensive to the privacy and dignity of" the prisoner, Rhoden said of the amendment.

That amendment was defeated, and the bill passed 56-14.

It now will go to the Senate for debate.

After contentious debate, the House on Tuesday passed the companion death penalty bill that leaves the makeup of the drug cocktail to the discretion of the Department of Corrections.

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