Debate On Lethal Injection Centers On Doctor Participation


In a review of the current disputes over lethal injection of death row inmates, the New York Times Magazine observes that “the American public tends to resist engaging with the physical problem of killing people.” Political scientist Austin Sarat of Amherst College says, “We're in an amazing moment of national reconsideration that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.” The inability to tolerate a single execution method for very long seems to stem partly from the conflicted relationship Americans have with capital punishment, says the magazine. Most people support it. As recent executions in Iraq have underscored, we don't want government-sanctioned killings to look like lynchings, nor do we want those killings to be too brutal or bloody.

People on both sides of the death-penalty debate dislike the fact that executions are modeled on a medical procedure. Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School who is in favor of the death penalty under certain circumstances says, “Doctors should not be involved with lethal injection. How we kill the people we hate should never resemble easing excruciating pain for those we love.” In an attempt to remedy the current situation, some states are moving toward more doctor participation, and others are moving away from it.


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