Medical Professionals Could Affect Future of Death Penalty
The "future of lethal injections" in California "has been thrown into doubt" after a prison this week was unable to fulfill conditions of a court order requiring physicians to be involved in an execution, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Most medical professionals say they refuse to participate in executions because doing so would violate ethics standards.
Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University, said on Wednesday, "[T]he proper way to ensure" humane execution procedures "is to get the involvement of the medical community, but the medical community today, and historically, has never wanted to get involved. I don't know how it's going to be resolved." Denno said court rulings likely would require changes in the drugs administered or those administering them.
However, Dudley Sharp, a pro-death penalty activist, believes that if medical professionals are required to be involved in executions, "they'll do away with lethal injection as a method of execution."
A judge will hold hearings in May to determine whether lethal injection is unconstitutional. No executions in the state -- including the execution of Michael Morales, which was scheduled for Feb. 21 -- will be performed until that time (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/23).
The following newspapers also published articles addressing the issue:
- "State Will Help Shape Fate of Lethal Injection" (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/23).
- "Lethal Injection Draws a New National Spotlight" (Broder, New York Times, 2/23).
- "Lethal Injection on Hold in California" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/23).
- "Death Penalty Debate Reopened" (Ostrom/Bailey, San Jose Mercury News, 2/23).
- "For Doctors, the Debate Goes Beyond Executions" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 2/23).
- "State's Death Penalty on Hold" (Sanders/Smith, Sacramento Bee, 2/23).
- "Execution Doctors May Not Have Known Protocol" (Smith, Stockton Record, 2/23).
Several broadcast programs reported on the medical ethics of the case:
- KPCC's "AirTalk": Guests on the program included Mort Borenstein, executive committee member and former chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Indigent Criminal Defense Association; Jean Rosenbluth, professor of law at the University of Southern California; and Marcy Zwelling, immediate past president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 2/22). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Nathan Barankin, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office; Vernell Crittendon, spokesperson for San Quentin State Prison; and Michael Sexton, president of the California Medical Association (Varney, "The California Report," KQED, 2/22). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Crittendon; Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola Law School; and Sexton (Lewis, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/22). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.