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December 25, 2008

Top corrections doctor resigns in Washington due to execution protocol issues

This interesting local story from the state of Washington, headlined "Doctor resigns over state executions: Corrections’ top medical officer points to ethics conflict," spotlights the challenges states face if and when they look to medical personnel to help with lethal injection protocols.  Here are the basics:

The state Department of Corrections' top medical officer has resigned, saying that the use of agency staff members to prepare for an execution is unethical.

Dr. Marc Stern, who lives in Olympia, said the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician involvement in executions, "and they say physicians should not supervise somebody who is involved in executions." "The only way out we found was for me to recuse myself, and the only way I could recuse myself was to resign," he said.

The agency had been set to execute Darold Ray Stenson, convicted of murder, this month. The execution has been postponed....

Scott Blonien, assistant secretary of the department, characterized Stern's objections as more individual than professional. "It's clear to us that Marc had a personal, ethical conflict, and we respect that. There's nothing we would want to do in the department to cause someone to commit a violation of their personal ethics," he said....

Blonien said Stern had expressed concern that the department did not have authority to get the drugs used for a lethal injection. Blonien added the agency checked with the Attorney General's Office and thinks it has authority to acquire and use the drugs under the law that authorizes injection as a form of execution....

Stern said the ethical conflict isn't personal. "This has nothing to do with my personal opinion of the death penalty. It has strictly to do with the recognized professional ethics," he said.

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December 25, 2008 at 02:46 PM | Permalink

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