Court Order: Toward a Painless Execution
After receiving the order of a Federal Judge that the execution, by lethal injection, of death row inmate Michael Morales on Februrary 21, 2006 be carried out with an anesthesiologist monitoring the procedure so that the execution would be painless, the state of California found two anesthesiologists (one as standby) who agreed to attend. According to the article published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle,
“The judge said records of recent executions at San Quentin, including observations that inmates appeared to be breathing for as long as 12 minutes after the first drug entered their veins, suggested possible flaws in the state's procedures."
The California Medical Association (CMA), in the Internet publication, CMA Alert, responded to the order and the state’s decision as follows:
“CMA has for decades sought to end physician participation in capital punishment, including seeking legislation banning such actions by physicians and other health care professionals. ...
CMA believes that a physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not participate in legally authorized executions. Regardless of its method of delivery, capital punishment is not a medical task, it does not require medical skills and the use of a physician’s medical skills for this nonmedical task is inappropriate and a breach of one of the medical profession’s most important ethical boundaries. CMA believes that physician participation in capital punishment threatens the public’s trust of physicians. This trust is central to the physician-patient relationship.”
It is interesting that so far the California state medical board has not made public any statement regarding the professional use of physician anesthesiologists in the execution procedure. My understanding of the professional role of the anesthesiologist was to induce unconsciousness into a patient undergoing surgery, monitoring the patient during the procedure to keep the patient free of pain but still alive and without harm and then attending to awakening the patient to consciousness. It is this established responsibility that has prevented “do not resuscitate” requests by the patient being carried out in the operating room while the patient is there.
Could this involvement of the court, encouraging anesthesiologist monitoring, be a political cover toward assuring the public that death by lethal injection is not "cruel" punishment? Would the courts and the justice system be more considerate to avoid the psychic pain of an innocent person looking forward to a lethal execution. ..Maurice.