US anesthesiologists asked not to help execute death sentences
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The American Society of Anesthesiologists called on its members not to attend executions of death sentences by lethal injection, even if called to do so by a court.
In a letter addressed to some 37,000 members, association president Orin Guidry recalled the American Medical Association's code of ethics, which says: "A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution."
Injection of a lethal cocktail is by far the most widely used method to execute death sentences in the United States.
However, the procedure has come under scrutiny. If the condemned is not correctly anesthetized by the first of the three drugs, the final two, which paralyze the muscles and stop the heart, are extremely painful.
A US court in California found that this may violate the Constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment".
Appeals have been filed before dozens of judges, and a Missouri court found that an anesthesiologist must mix the drugs and observe the results, Guidry said, adding that media there reported the state is seeking physician anesthesiologists to do the job.
Guidry's letter to anesthesiologists went on to say: "The court cannot modify physicians ethical principles to meet its needs."
"Lethal injection was not anesthesiologys idea. American society decided to have capital punishment as part of our legal system and to carry it out with lethal injection.
"The fact that problems are surfacing is not our dilemma. The legal system has painted itself into this corner and it is not our obligation to get it out," the letter said.
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