Essay on Bioethical Issues

Published: 2021/11/30
Number of words: 642

There have been debates surrounding the ethicality of the death penalties and the method of execution used for execution. In the United States, there are two methods of execution; that is, death by electrocution or death by lethal injection, which begs the question of they constitute a cruel and unusual punishment. However, there is also a significant discussion that has not received much attention. What is the role of physicians in execution? Physicians’ role in this aspect increased since the introduction of lethal injection, which replaced the execution method. Are physicians ethically obligated to make the process as smooth and painless as possible for the convicted during death penalties?

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The American Medical Association (AMA) opposes physician participation in capital punishment, terming it as unethical. I agree with AMA, and I feel that instead of interfering with physicians’ role by engaging them in actions that compromise their qualifications, the government should train non-medical technicians in the field of administering lethal injections or looking for an alternative method for capital punishment. Administering lethal injection requires several medical procedures, requiring advanced knowledge of several drugs and medical procedures (Kaebnick, 98). The inmate is first injected with an anesthetic to induce unconsciousness; they are then injected with a neuromuscular blocker that prevents respiration by paralyzing the diaphragm and finally injecting a fatal dose of potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

If any of the above procedures are administered wrongly, the inmate may suffer in his death. For example, if the first drug is administered inadequately, it may cause paralysis in the inmate and be consciously aware while suffocating. Secondly, if the catheter is administered too quickly or with too much force, it may blow out. There are several other risks associated with the wrong delivery of the drugs used in capital punishment. These procedures require a trained professional, and a physician is best qualified to conduct the process to ensure minimal suffering for the inmate (Franklin, 12). However, their participation in the procedure may not match the ethics in practice, especially those outlined in the AMA code of ethics.

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AMA defines physician participation in the death penalty as any act that would directly cause death or directly help another person cause death. The AMA Code of ethics prohibits prescription of drugs, choosing injection sites, inserting the IV line inspecting lethal injection equipment, or consulting and advising the execution team. As much as most medical societies are against participation, most physicians still participate as long as they are kept unanimous and protected by the government. AMA argues that capital punishment is not in any way related to physicians. Physicians’ role is to preserve life with the hope of survival; therefore, they should not participate in executions (Kaebnick, 110). Thus, the government and agencies responsible for capital punishment should train non-medical staff to conduct the lethal injection process or find a new form of the death penalty.

As much as a medical professional is required for this process, in most cases, their involvement is limited to watch without providing verbal and physical assistance and certify the death of the convicted at the end. Typically, physicians can provide end-of-life care to their patients, which ensures a comfortable and peaceful death. However, in this case, physicians do not interact with the inmate on the doctor-patient level but are enlisted to perform the procedure on an unwilling person (Kaebnick, 106). Therefore, physicians’ participation in capital punishment is unethical as it goes against the traditions of care and beneficence.

Works Cited

Kaebnick E. Gregory Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Bioethical Issues

Franklin, Robert. A Known and Available Alternative to Physicians Participating in Execution Procedures (2017) (PDF) A Known and Available Alternative to Physicians Participating in Execution Procedures (researchgate.net)

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