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Lethal injections: no healthcare professionals should be involved

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 19 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2643
  1. Mike Weaver, consultant anaesthetist, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne
  1. mike.weaver{at}

    On 15 February the American Board of Anesthesiology, which certifies anaesthetists in the United States, stated that “anesthesiologists may not participate in capital punishment if they wish to be certified” (BMJ 2010;340:c2432, doi:10.1136/bmj.c2432). To me, a US anaesthetist practising in the United Kingdom but partly US trained, this statement would seem surreal if it were not so necessary. The death penalty is constitutional, and so is the use of a lethal injection to achieve it.

    For years the American Society of Anesthesiologists has followed the American Medical Association’s advice in its clear opposition to physicians’ involvement in capital punishment. The association’s guidelines almost completely limit this involvement to certifying death. This guidance has not prevented some medical and nursing practitioners from taking part in the administration of lethal injections. The precise numbers involved are unknown, as participants are allowed to maintain anonymity. The most recent commentary from the …

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