Sunday, 11 February 2007

Neither the State nor an individual can kill humanely

Maarten Kamp,
Director of Endocrinology
Launceston General Hospital

Neither the State nor an individual can kill humanely

Groner has eloquently drawn attention to the appalling involvement of various "healthcare professionals" in carrying out the offensive State- sanctioned practice (in this case in the US) of judicially-pronounced killing. It is difficult at times to maintain the resolve against the death penalty - some people do commit the most abhorrent crimes. Vengeance, even if it still maintains some part in the judicial system, should not however be a force in medical practice.

A misconception on the part of the states that enact the death penalty, of the people who support it and the healthcare professionals involved, is that killing an unwilling victim (I am avoiding the euthanasia debate here)can be "humane". Dying can be made more humane - the suffering from illness or injury can be minimised for the patient, their family and loved ones, but killing is inhumane. The irony therefore is that the actions of these people, ostensibly perhaps meant to reduce the pre-agonal suffering of the prisoner, bind all participants irrevocably to their own cruel involvement. The overriding aim of reducing the apparent violence of the death penalty is to make it more acceptable to society. This is necessary to garner continued support and emphasises the inherent wrong involved.

Doctors especially should attempt to protect their view of individuals in their care from clouding by societal, judicial or executive views. Away from caring for the prisoners, doctors like all others in society can express abhorrence for their crimes. In assisting the State to kill, the doctor has irrevocably crossed the line, allowing a judicial decision to fashion their perception of the person as nothing more than a prisoner to be punished. Worse than this, the doctor has colluded with the state to ensure that punishment occurs and is complete. No action could be further from the raison d'etre of the medical profession.

Competing interests: None declared

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