Physician Resigns, Says Can't Supervise Executions

With the execution of Darold Ray Stenson on the horizon, Dr. Marc Stern resigned his position as the top medical officer employed by the Washington Department of Corrections.

Dr. Marc Stern, who lives in Olympia, said the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician involvement in executions, "and they say physicians should not supervise somebody who is involved in executions."

One of the department's assistant secretaries disingenuously "characterized Stern's objections as more individual than professional."

The American Medical Association says physicians shouldn't take part in "an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned."

Following the AMA's ethical guidance sounds professional, doesn't it?

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    I've never understood (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 04:26:52 PM EST
    how doctors could work in this capacity. Must be hell on the conscience.

    There is No Right To Kill Humans (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by pluege on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 08:42:51 PM EST
    Now I'm of the opinion that we do not have a right to say whether or not someone should die based upon their criminal activities, especially given that they could easily be wrongly convicted.

    The only correct statement is: "we do not have a right to say whether or not someone should die". Leave off the rest. There is no inherent right of man to kill humans; and circumstances, surely not revenge, or even the chance of mistake can not imbue such a right. Therefore there is no justification ever for humans to kill humans. Killing another human on purpose is a criminal act - period.  

    Plenty of people may deserve to die. But no human has a right to make that determination or act upon such a determination.

    that pots the lie to necessary (none / 0) (#8)
    by OldCity on Tue Dec 30, 2008 at 09:43:30 AM EST
    violence in the service of self-defense, where killing may be the only reliable method of self-preservation.

    I'm against the death penalty in general.  However, I distrust absolutes absolutely.  "...No right of man to kill humans" is ludicrous.  Of course we do.  

    Is that idea noble, if by failing to kill a murderous despot, we sacrifice 10 million people as his victims?  I'd wager the ten million would argue not.  


    Priorities (none / 0) (#1)
    by pluege on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 03:46:39 PM EST
    Resignation is required for a Doctor to uphold his Hippocratic oath and published position of the AMA, but its essential that clerks in drug stores are able to not provide birth control contraceptives as a matter of conscience. The nation's priorities are nuts.

    Would not the new Bush Conscience Rule (none / 0) (#2)
    by clio on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 04:07:17 PM EST
    just finalized on the Dec. 19, protect Dr. Stern?

    In the rule's preamble it states

    "health care service program" should be understood to include any activity related in any way to providing medicine, health care, or any other service related to health or wellness, and that "health care service" means any service so provided*

    I can hardly think of anything more likely to affect health and wellness than injecting lethal quantities of pancuronium, and potassium into the bloodstream.  It is clear that Dr. Stern has ethical objections to this.  

    As far as I can see [but IANAL], based on this rule, Dr. Stern is not required to resign in order forbid any employee under his supervision from participating in this procedure.

    ...preamble language further defines that any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure...can also be considered objectionable. This broad definition of "assist in the performance" suggests that any individual invoking the conscience clause protections is under no obligation to refer the patient to other practitioners*

    This should probably be litigated for clarification, but surely supervision of a procedures is a "reasonable connection."  Dr. Stern and his lawyers and well as Mr. Stenson's lawyers might look into this, don't you think?

    *all emphasis mine.

    Ah, the irony. (none / 0) (#6)
    by nycstray on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 05:01:42 PM EST
    Could they have been so focused on abortion and related care, that they over looked this possibility?

    Wow (none / 0) (#3)
    by Plutonium Page on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 04:19:08 PM EST
    Interesting news.  Thanks, TChris, I wouldn't have known about it otherwise.

    I keep typing and deleting stuff.  Nothing controversial, I'm just trying to process the story.  There was a time where I was of the opinion that some criminals deserved to die (rare cases, like John Wayne Gacy).  Now I'm of the opinion that we do not have a right to say whether or not someone should die based upon their criminal activities, especially given that they could easily be wrongly convicted.

    I'm not sad that Gacy is dead, though.

    Agree with you all the way around (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 04:34:15 PM EST
    Not sad that Gacy is not here anymore, not sad that Ted Bundy isn't either.  I'm not okay with being responsible for taking their lives though.