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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77366 Find in a Library
Title: Ethics of Medical Participation in Capital Punishment by Intravenous Drug Injection
Journal: New England Journal of Medicine  Volume:302  Issue:4  Dated:(January 24, 1980)  Pages:226-230
Author(s): W J Curran; W Casscells
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the ethical, legal, and clinical concerns regarding medical participation in capital punishment by intravenous drug injection.
Abstract: Four States have passed legislation that adopts this new method of capital punishment. Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, and New Mexico. Other States are considering such programs. Medical professional participation in these programs can involve a variety of roles, from ordering the substance and preparing it for injection, to injecting the substance or ordering and supervising the injection by other medical personnel, to monitoring the administration and observing the prisoner throughout the continuous injection of the drug and lastly, to examining the prisoner and pronouncing the death. Both internationally recognized principles condemning capital punishment and the Hippocratic Oath's definition of physicians as healers who would never kill or harm their patients mitigate against physician involvement in this form of capital punishment. In addition, these ethical principles would make it improper also for physicians to train persons to perform inhumane treatment or punishment, even if the physicians possessed the skills and knowledge to provide the training. To be both present and performing a monitoring role is, in fact, worse because the physician then becomes the instrument to stop the lethal action itself. Finally, it is disturbing that this method, viewed as less cruel than other methods of capital punishment should, by its availability, encourage the more extensive application of the death penalty and its recommendation by lay juries in the criminal courts. Over 20 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Code of ethics; Cruel and unusual punishment; Deterrence; Idaho; Medicolegal considerations; New Mexico; Oklahoma; Texas
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