[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 4 21:23:39 CDT 2007
Medical professionals break ethical oath with lethal injection
Amnesty International, Press release
Doctors and nurses should not participate in executions ordered by the
state in breach of their ethical oath, said Amnesty International in a new
The report, Execution by lethal injection - a quarter century of state
poisoning looks at the legal and ethical implications of the use of the
lethal injection across the world.
"Medical professionals are trained to work for patients' well-being, not
to participate in executions ordered by the state. The simplest way of
resolving the ethical dilemmas posed by using doctors and nurses to kill
is by abolishing the death penalty," said Jim Welsh, Amnesty
International's Health and Human Rights coordinator.
Since 1982, at least 1,000 people were executed by lethal injection
globally -- 3 in Guatemala, four in Thailand, 7 in the Philippines, more
than 900 in the USA and up to several thousands in China, where executions
are a state secret.
In lethal injection executions, prisoners are commonly injected with
massive doses of 3 chemicals: sodium thiopental to rapidly induce
unconsciousness, pancuronium bromide to cause muscle paralysis, and
potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Doctors have expressed concern that if inadequate levels of sodium
thiopental are administered, the anaesthetic effect can wear off before
the prisoner's heart stops, placing them at risk of experiencing
excruciating pain as the chemicals enter the veins producing cardiac
arrest. Due to the paralysis induced by pancuronium bromide, they would be
unable to communicate their distress to anyone.
For these reasons, these chemicals are not used by veterinary surgeons on
animals for euthanasia. In Texas, the biggest user of lethal injection in
the USA, the same drugs that are prohibited for use on cats and dogs
because of the potential pain they might suffer are being used to execute.
Joseph Clark was executed in Ohio in December 2006. It took 22 minutes for
the execution technicians to find a vein to insert the catheter. Shortly
after the start of the injection, the vein collapsed and Joseph's arm
began to swell. He raised his head off the stretcher and said "it don't
work, it don't work". The curtains surrounding the stretcher were then
closed while the technicians worked for 30 minutes to find another vein.
"The use of lethal injection does not resolve the problems inherent to the
death penalty: its cruelty; its irreversibility; the risk of executing the
innocent; its discriminatory and arbitrary application; and its
irrelevance to effective crime control," said Jim Welsh.
"Governments are putting doctors and nurses in an impossible position by
asking them to do something that goes against their ethical oath."
In China, the world's top executioner, many, executions by lethal
injection are carried out in mobile vans. The windowless chamber at the
back of the vans contains a metal bed on which the prisoner is strapped
down. Once the needle is attached by the doctor, a police officer presses
a button and an automatic syringe inserts the lethal drug into the
prisoner's vein. The execution can be watched on a video monitor next to
the driver's seat and can be videotaped if required.
"There is a global consensus within the medical profession that the
involvement of health professionals in carrying out an execution,
particularly by a method using the technology and knowledge of medicine,
is a breach of medical ethics; yet health professionals are participating
in such executions."
"Professional bodies have recently spoken strongly about this abuse of
ethics, but governments want to hide the identity of participating doctors
to shield them from the scrutiny of professional colleagues," said Jim
Amnesty International calls on world leaders to abolish the death penalty
and urges them to take the opportunity to begin with a vote for a
moratorium at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly
when it is voted on later in 2007.
(source: Amnesty International)
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