Week of 7.14.06
Do No Harm?
This Week: Do No Harm? | Web-Extended Interview: "Nurse Karen" | Perspectives: Doctors Speak Out | Article: When Law and Ethics Collide | Timeline: Death Penalty Milestones | Facts & Figures: Capital Punishment | Interview: Bunnatine Greenhouse | Transcript
Since its beginnings in the 1980s, lethal injection has become the most popular execution method, resulting in increased participation by medical professionals in capital punishment.
"I don't know that I consider anybody an executioner, even the people that I know who push the drugs ... I look at it as the state is the executioner," "Karen", a nurse who has participated in 14 executions at a prison in Jackson, Georgia, told NOW.
Georgia, like a number of other states, requires that nurses and doctors be in attendance when an inmate is put to death. Karen, who did not want to show her face for fear of retribution, describes how medical personnel have been harassed and forced to go underground.
Legal challenges in some states are changing execution protocol and increasing the need for medical personnel. Last month in Missouri a federal judge ordered the state to have a board-certified anesthesiologist assist in the lethal injection process. Earlier this year, California also ruled that an anesthesiologist should partake in executions. Both states have faced difficulties in finding physicians willing to participate. Executions in those states have been put on hold as a result.
The number of similar legal cases is set to rise since a Supreme Court ruling last month made it easier for death-row prisoners to challenge lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.
How can doctors and nurses reconcile their need to participate in the death penalty while adhering to the ethical and moral codes of their profession?