A national physicians organization has decided to revoke the certification of any member who participates in executing a prisoner by lethal injection, the Washington Post reports. The mandate from the American Board of Anesthesiologists reflects its leaders’ belief that “we are healers, not executioners,” said secretary Mark Rockoff. Although the American Medical Association has long opposed doctor involvement, the anesthesiologists’ group is the first to say it will harshly penalize a health-care worker for abetting lethal injections. The loss of certification would prevent an anesthesiologist from working in most hospitals.
About half of the 35 states performing executions require a doctor to be present. Other states have also recruited doctors, including anesthesiologists, to play a role in executions involving lethal injections. In some jurisdictions, anesthesiologists consult prison officials on dosages. In others, they insert catheters and infuse the three-drug cocktails. While death penalty opponents welcome the move because it raises yet more questions about lethal injections, capital punishment supporters contend that doctors are not needed during the procedures, which can be administered by prison employees. With 3,200 prisoners now on death rows, most of the 50 executions performed each year since 2008 have used lethal injections. “If I were lying there on the gurney and someone was administering a paralyzing drug . . .I would want someone there who knew what they were doing,” said Ty Alper of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law. “Just like if I was getting surgery — I wouldn’t want a prison guard administering the anesthesia.”