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Poll: Doctors Willing To Help in Executions
By Associated Press
Published: 12/03/2001

Many doctors would be willing to participate in an execution, even though it violates the Hippocratic oath to do no harm and is prohibited by medical societies, according to a survey published to day.
Asked whether they would perform any action on a list of 10 involving the mechanics of lethal injection, 41 percent of doctors who responded to a questionnaire said they would perform at least one; 25 percent said they would perform five or more.
The questionnaire was mailed to 1,000 randomly selected practicing physicians nationwide and 413 responded. The results appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The specific actions the doctors were asked about applied to execution by injection, though there were broader questions about capital punishment.
Nineteen percent of responding doctors said they would administer lethal drugs; 28 percent said they would select or insert intravenous lines into the prisoner for the drug's delivery; 30 percent would monitor the prisoner's vital signs; and 36 percent would pronounce the inmate's death.
All actions are disallowed by the American Medical Association.
Physicians and trained medical personnel are required at most U.S. executions, though their roles differ in the 38 states with capital punishment. According to a 1994 report co-sponsored by the American College of Physicians, some states require the 'presence' of a physician while others require corrections officials to 'invite' a physician.
Many require a physician to certify death, something the AMA contends is not participation. Pronouncing death, however, is considered unethical.
Only 3 percent of the responding doctors said they knew participating in executions was prohibited by medical societies.


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