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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

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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