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AMA News Room

May 2, 2014

State Mandates for Physician Participation in Capital Punishment Violate Medical Ethics

For immediate release:
May 2, 2014

Statement attributed to:
Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D.
President, American Medical Association

"No matter how one feels about capital punishment, it is disquieting for physicians to act as agents of the state in the assisting, supervising or contributing to a legally authorized execution.  Physicians are fundamentally healers dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so. The knowledge and skill of physicians must only be used for care, compassion and healing. To have the state mandate that physician skills be turned against a human being undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine – first, do no harm. 

"The American Medical Association is troubled by continuous refusal of states to acknowledge the ethical obligations of physicians that strictly prohibit involvement in capital punishment. The AMA's policy is clear and unambiguous – requiring physicians to participate in executions violates their oath to protect lives and introduces deep ambiguity into the very definition of medical care.

"Oklahoma and other states that continue to authorize lethal injections must honor the well-established principle of medical ethics that prohibits physician participation in capital punishment."

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Contact:

Robert J. Mills
AMA Media & Editorial
(312) 464-5970
robert.mills@ama-assn.org

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