Friday, February 24, 2006

California Ethical Quandry

I see that California is trying to execute a murdering rapist. A judge has ordered that before the execution can proceed, a licensed physician must attend. No licensed physician has stepped forward to attend to the execution and, in effect, a moratorium on executions exists in California.
But officials at San Quentin State Prison could not meet the demands of a federal judge who ordered licensed medical personnel to take part in the execution. Because of ethical considerations, there were no takers, and the execution was called off.
I have long wondered when ethical considerations would rear their head in lethal injection cases.

It seems doctors swear an oath, the Hippocratic Oath. In the classical version, they promise:
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
which would tend to mitigate against a physician taking part in an execution, especially one that uses a physicians art. However, that same paragraph also presumes to mitgate against abortions. That in itself is an ethical quandry for the medical profession.

However, there is a modern version of the Oath, which I can read here online, and which says:
Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
The modern version seems to allow a physician to take a life, as long as he doesn't play at God.

Either way, I think the doctors of California are being a bit.... Hypocritic. Ethical standards are one thing to hang an objection on, but when the oath allows the practice, all pretense at an ethical standard goes screaming out the window.

Still, it would be better for the state to amend their law to allow other forms of execution. I'm told that a shot into the brainstem is instantly fatal. There is no waiting around for death. I'm sure that other methods can bring about the desired result without the participation of a doctor. Hanging comes instantly to mind, as do several less palatable methods.

1 comment:

wst... said...

heres a thought just for the hell of it - why not have abortion doctors do the executions?