Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Is your doctor an executioner?

Is your doctor an executioner?

Mark Struthers,
General Practitioner
Bedfordshire UK

So far this year the US has judicially murdered ten people; the state of Texas has killed eight of them. These are all cold-blooded killings because it has invariably been many years since conviction. American physicians remain complicit in this barbarism.

The next person to be given a lethal injection is Richard Fox from Ohio who barring last a last minute reprieve will be killed on 12th February.

With the following article Jonathan Groner courageously continues to highlight the cruelty of the American justice system. American physicians have the power to overturn the death penalty. I wonder if they have the collective humanity to do so?

"On the morning of February 12, Richard Fox will receive a visit from a health care professional. This individual will either be a licensed practical nurse, a paramedic, or a phlebotomy technician (The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will not reveal the individual's name or exact qualifications). This professional will insert intravenous (IV) "saline locks" into each of Mr. Fox's arms. Shortly before 10 am, Mr. Fox will be placed on an "execution bed" -- which looks like an operating room table -- and most likely strapped down for safety. The saline locks will be attached to plastic intravenous tubing that looks identical to the equipment found in any hospital. Then, after a signal from the warden, the following drugs will be administered intravenously by hand injection: Thiopental sodium, 2 grams (a drug used for induction of general anesthesia); pancuronium bromide, 100 milligrams (a potent muscle relaxant used for major operations); and potassium chloride, 100 milliequivalents (a chemical used to paralyze the heart during bypass operations). However, in Mr. Fox's case, there will be no ventilator to support his breathing nor will there be a bypass machine to take over his circulation. If all goes well, his heartbeat (monitored by a stethoscope) will cease after a few minutes. A medical doctor will then pronounce the "patient" dead.

This execution protocol has been performed five times before in Ohio. The previous victims have included a suicidally depressed man who begged to be killed, a psychotic man, and a man who may have been innocent. In each case, the assistance of health care professionals was required to carry out this medical charade.

Participation in lethal injection is expressly forbidden by national health professional organizations. The American Nurses Association has stated that "participation in executions contradicts the fundamental role of the health care professional as healer and comforter... When the health care professional serves in an execution under circumstances that mimic care, the healing purposes of health services and technology become perverted." The American Medical Association enumerates eight specific acts that are forbidden, including pronouncing the prisoner dead. Yet, despite these clear directives, health care professionals, in violation of the most basic ethical tenets of their profession, continue to participate.

If you needed an operation (or a transfusion, or chemotherapy), would you want the nurse or technician who inserted Mr. Fox's intravenous lines to insert yours? Would you want the physician who listened to Mr. Fox's heart and lungs before pronouncing him dead to listen to your heart and lungs? Lethal injection not only defiles those who directly participate, but taints all health care professionals.

If not for the sake of the mentally ill or the sake of the innocent, then for the sake of doctors, nurses, paramedics, medical technicians, and their patients, it is time for the executions to stop." (source: Jonathan I. Groner MD---Acknowledgements: The information on Ohio's execution protocol was provided in writing by James S. Haviland, Warden, and Vincent Lagana, Staff Counsel, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)

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