Physician Marc Stern recently quit his job as health services director for the Washington State Corrections Department because his duties included supervising at least one employee involved in preparations for the states first execution since 2001.
Both the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians condemn the participation of doctors in the administration of the death penalty. The only way out we found was for me to recuse myself, and the only way I could recuse myself was to resign, Stern told the Olympian newspaper.
Notwithstanding those guidelines, Outliers cursory review of the literature suggests the issue is a complicated one, and the discussion often begins with a fact that it was the French physician and death-penalty opponent, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who suggested that the creation of a mechanical executioner might at least make the process more humane. We know how that turned out.
More recently a battle over whether the prevailing recipe for lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel (the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last April that its not) led some physicians to again wonder out loud whether it could be ethical for someone in their profession to make executions less prone to painful and gruesome mishaps.
For unrelated reasons, the Washington Supreme Court has held up the planned lethal-injection execution of Darold Stenson for the 1993 shooting murders of his wife and a man whod invested in the couples proposal to raise ostriches for meat.