SEEMA K. SHAH Government of the United States of America - Department of Clinical Bioethics
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 2008
This essay exposes how recent attempts at lethal injection reform have involved unethical and illegal research on prisoners. States are varying the doses and types of drugs used, developing methods designed for non-medical professionals to administer medical procedures, and gathering data or making provisions for the gathering of data to learn from executions gone wrong.
When individual prisoners are executed under these conditions, states are conducting research on them. Conducting research or experimentation on prisoners in the process of reform is problematic because it violates ethical frameworks and state laws.
The Supreme Court has recently taken up the challenge of elucidating the standard for determining the constitutionality of lethal injection. If the Court suggests an approach to lethal injection reform that is akin to some of the more thoughtful and cautious approaches other courts have proposed, the Court's decision may also contravene state laws or ethical precepts regarding research with prisoners.
Thus, this paper provides important limitations on the kinds of reform that may be permissible and outlines the open questions that must be addressed before it can be determined whether the risks and uncertainties involved in lethal injection can be remedied.
Keywords: lethal injection, criminal law, medical ethics, research ethics, health law
JEL Classifications: K14, K32
Accepted Paper Series
Shah, Seema K., "How Lethal Injection Reform Constitutes Impermissible Research on Prisoners" . American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 2008 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1028127
Contact Information for SEEMA K. SHAH (Contact Author) Email address for SEEMA K. SHAH Government of the United States of America - Department of Clinical Bioethics Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center Bethesda , MD 20895-1156 United States