KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Anesthesiologist Group To Decertify Physicians Who Help With Lethal Injections

The American Board of Anesthesiologists "has quietly decided to revoke the certification of any member who participates in executing a prisoner by lethal injection," according to The Washington Post. The decision "reflects its leaders' belief that 'we are healers, not executioners,' board secretary Mark A. Rockoff said. Although the American Medical Association has long opposed doctor involvement, the anesthesiologists' group is the first to say it will harshly penalize a health-care worker for abetting lethal injections. The loss of certification would prevent an anesthesiologist from working in most hospitals. About half of the 35 states performing executions, including Virginia and North Carolina, require a doctor to be present."

But supporters of capital punishment argue that "doctors are not needed during the procedures, which can be administered by prison employees. … With 3,200 prisoners now on death rows across the country, most of the 50 executions performed each year since 2008 have used lethal injections." Members of the ABA learned about the new rule in February, and so far, "no doctors have been disciplined, Rockoff said" (Stein, 5/2).

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