Anesthesiologist Decline to Supervise Execution After Criticism
Some medical groups are criticizing a federal judge's ruling that an anesthesiologist be present at the execution of a prison inmate, saying it violates ethics standards, the Sacramento Bee reports.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that evidence suggests previous inmates might have been conscious when lethal doses of drugs were administered. Under the ruling, the scheduled execution of an inmate on Tuesday could have proceeded if an anesthesiologist was present to determine whether the inmate is sufficiently unconscious after the first of three doses of medication.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists criticized the ruling and issued a statement on Wednesday that said, "Physicians are healers, not executioners. The doctor-patient relationship depends upon the inviolate principle that a doctor uses his or her medical expertise only for the benefit of patients."
The American Civil Liberties Union distributed a statement by Jonathan Groner, a surgery professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, that said, "Not since Nazi physicians supervised the killing of mentally and physically disabled individuals ... have high-ranking physicians become so intimately involved in state-sponsored killing."
The California Medical Association also has criticized the ruling.
The Medical Board of California said it would not consider the matter. Medical board spokesperson Candis Cohen said the state "Medical Practices Act doesn't preclude physician participation in an execution, and executions are lawful" in California (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 2/17).
Anesthesiologists who were scheduled to monitor an execution on Tuesday withdrew from the process, saying it "is ethically unacceptable," the Sacramento Bee reports.
The anesthesiologists in a prepared statement said the ruling "raised serious questions about a possible responsibility to personally intervene in the execution ... if any evidence of either pain or a return to consciousness arose. Any such intervention would clearly be medically unethical" (Carreon et al., Sacramento Bee, 2/21).
The prison warden said that the execution would be delayed until Tuesday and that the inmate would receive a lethal dose of barbiturates (Sahagun/Reiterman, Los Angeles Times, 2/21).
Several broadcast programs reported recently on the delay of the execution:
- KQED's "The California Report Magazine": The segment includes comments from Clarence Braddock, professor of biomedical ethics at Stanford University's School of Medicine (Shafer, "The California Report Magazine," KQED, 2/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Braddock and Jonathan Groner, a surgeon in Ohio who has studied lethal injection protocols nationwide (Shuler, "The California Report," KQED, 2/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from KQED reporter Judy Campbell (Montagne, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/21). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.