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The Source: Doctors And Execution


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Executions in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Ohio more have seen inmates struggling for breath, gasping, while an ineffective process prolongs their suffering, sometimes as in the case of Joseph Wood for as long as two hours. Wood was convicted of killing his girlfriend Debbie Dietz and her father Gene Dietz in 1989.

Texas allows for doctors to be involved in state executions, California mandates it. Doctors can ensure a smoother and more humane death than a jailhouse guard argue some, just look at all the botched executions that have been taking place. 

"To have the state mandate that physician skills be turned against a human being undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine; first, do no harm." -Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, president of the American Medical Association

The problem is it violates the code of conduct that every doctor takes an oath to. In addition it violates the foundations of what it is to be a healer, argue many, as the the person is never a patient and the sole purpose of the doctor is not to heal but to assist in killing.  

For several years states have worked with doctors that participate to keep their identities confidential. If they weren't kept confidential state boards would have grounds to refuse licensure. Several people have called on the AMA to do more, and punish doctors that participate in executions.


  • Dr. Jason Morrow, medical ethicists and palliative care specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive