Thursday, 1 July 2010

Anesthesiologists face penalty for participating in death penalty

May 3, 2010

by Vicky Eckenrode

The American Board of Anesthesiologists has decided to drop the certification of any member who participates in a prisoner’s death sentence, according to a recent Washington Post article.

If enforced, it would mean anesthesiologists who help administer the lethal injection process could lose their ability to practice in most hospitals.

The issue of whether doctors should be a part of the death penalty has been a controversial one for years though the threat to pull certification is the furthest any physician group has gone.

North Carolina is one of the states that allow death by lethal injection. In the state, it now is the only way to administer the death penalty.

No one has been put to death in the state, however, since 2006, according to the N.C. Department of Corrections, which has 157 people currently on death row.

The de-facto moratorium started when the N.C. Medical Board blocked the doctors it licenses from being present at the procedure.

The state Supreme Court later struck down that position, saying the board could not discipline a doctor just because he or she participated in an execution.

The board stated because of the ruling, it would not take action against a doctor.

“The North Carolina Medical Board does, however, continue to take the position that physician participation in capital punishment is a departure from the ethics of the medical profession,” according to the group’s current position statement, which also points to the American Medical Association’s stance.

The AMA’s opinion on capital punishment states: “An individual’s opinion on capital punishment is the personal moral decision of the individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution.”

Though the courts have settled the issue about the state medical board, legal challenges about the method of lethal injections and the cocktail of drugs used still have to be resolved.

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