| Doctor Executioners
||[Mar. 26th, 2006|12:28 am]
The Medical Forum
I read this highly thought-provoking article from the New England Journal of Medicine a couple of days ago. This article questions the ethical responsibility of doctors who have agreed or who agree to be part of the death penalty act. Have a look, it's really thought-engaging.
When Law and Ethics collide - Why Physicians participate in executions
I thought this was really interesting, haven't really thought about the dilemma doctors are in when they witness an execution and sometimes, even have a part to play in it.
I am really split over this issue.
On one hand, a physician should never take another's life, regardless what that person did. We are after all, not in a position to judge another. Leave that to the Law and get them people who do the sentencing to carry out the deed. Don't let the medical profession be the scapegoat.
On the other, "Cure seldom, relieve often, comfort always" is the mantra of the medical profession. Can we bear to abandon a person in the last moments of their life? Is it not cruel to let someone who knows not how to administer an injection properly or mix the medicines well, to cause pain and mental agony to one in his or her dying moments? Is it ethical to let someone suffer tremendously due to poor medical procedures when it can be prevented in the first place, as they go on their way to meet their maker?
I think that the whole problem boils down to one simple fact - can doctors prevent the death penalty in the first place? Put it this way, if all the doctors refuse to take part in the execution procedure, would the procedure be aborted? Would some other method be used instead? If it can be prevented, then yes, i think it is definitely unethical for a doctor to take part in an execution. But if the Law wouldn't budge, society is aloof, and lethal injection would be administered with or without the help of the medical profession, then i think it is the moral responsibility of the doctor to ensure the smooth passing of the inmate.
You can say that the doctor is going against his Hippocratic Oath. But is he? It was never in his intention to kill the inmate. The decision was made by the judicial system, and it is final. Whether the doctor likes it or not, the inmate is destined to die. The only issue now is whether it could be done peacefully without any mess. And in truth, i feel that the person who is on death row made that decision himself when he committed his crime. He knows the law and he knows the death penalty exists. If he wants to push his luck and thinks he is above the law, can we blame it on anyone? He made the decision to end his life the moment he committed his crime. We shouldn't blame it on the judicial system or the medical profession. It's time the person in topic takes responsibility for his own actions.
And if society is so jittery about the various methods in which people are executed, then i think they should seriously consider abolishing the death penalty. In other words, if you support the death penalty, then you shouldn't squirm or point the finger when the deed is done. And if you don't support the death penalty, don't choose an easy target to blame it on. Tell that to your respective governments who established the law in the first place.
What do you guys think? It would be cool to hear differing opinions. I suspect my opinion may change when i hear other more convincing perspectives.
P/S: I posted this in Med Students community as well.