Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Doctors and Lethal Injection

From today's Seattle Times, this article lays out a fascinating ethical dilemma. 

It describes the situation faced by Dr. Marc Stern, who formerly headed the medically program for Washington state's prison population. Stern quit his job when directed to oversee an execution. 

Stern felt the execution violated his ethical obligation as a physician to "first do no harm." Also, The American Medical Association, according to the article, disapproves of physician participation in lethal injections

Other medical staff with the Department of Corrections continued to work on the execution that Stern found objectionable, despite Stern directing them not to. 

This raises many interesting issues:

Should a medical doctor be involved with an execution?
Should other medical staff be involved with an execution?
Should a doctor work for a prison system if he/she is opposed to execution?
What would a prison system do without medical staff?
How could a lethal injection possibly be administered without some sort of medical supervision?
Was Stern right to try to impose his ethical concerns onto other staff at the DOC? 
Was Stern right to quit over the execution? 

Yet another example of how murky the world of medical ethics can be. 


risaden said...

Sorry I missed this post! Although it seems to me that he was absolutely right to quit, it makes me think of how easy it is to be sure one is right about moral issues like abortion, the death penalty, war, assisted death. I believe that two of these issues have moral authority and three do not. I feel certain that I can justify my positions, but those who chose differently probably feel just as certain.

Anonymous said...

He shouldn't have quit, because he shouldn't have been put in this situation. It is important to maintain the medical profession as a healing profession rather one that engineers the results society desires. If a physician engages in something that takes someone's life, how can patients have complete confidence that their doctors will do all they can for their benefit?