"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ethical Responsibilities of Physicians: Capital Punishment in the 21st Century

Karen B. Rosenbaum, MD; William Connor Darby, MD; Robert Weinstock, MD

Psychiatric Annals

The United States is in the company of only 22 other countries with the death penalty.

The American Medical Association is among many medical professional organizations that prohibit the participation of physicians in the physical act of execution.

Despite these clear guidelines, debate remains regarding physician involvement in various aspects of death penalty cases.

This article outlines different positions that physicians and specifically forensic psychiatrists have taken on this issue.

Our position is that given the overwhelming secondary duty related to their physician role - specifically to do no harm - forensic psychiatrists should not use their expertise if they believe their involvement will be used for the primary purpose of obtaining a death penalty. 

Of necessity, forensic evaluations can do harm. But when something as extreme as death is concerned, the secondary medical duties preclude directly facilitating a person's death. [Psychiatr Ann. 2015;45(12):615 - 621.]

Source: healio.com, December 11, 2015

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