Healthcare News & Insights

Ethics in action: The death penalty and board certification

Some doctors who take part in state-ordered executions of prisoners could lose their board certifications over it.

The American Board of Anesthesiology has incorporated the American Medical Association’s stance on capital punishment into its own professional standing requirements. (Download an explanation of the change here.)

The board says it’s not passing political judgment on the practice of capital punishment. Instead, the move reflects the board’s feelings that taking part in capital punishment places doctors in an ethical quagmire.

Anesthesiologists who take part in a lethal injection risk losing their board certification — without which it’s impossible to practice at most hospitals.

Currently, roughly half of states with capital punishment provisions require a doctor to be present. Depending on the jurisdiction, anesthesiologists may be asked to consult with corrections officials about dosages and medications, or to actually administer the drug cocktail.

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