Dr. Death? Professionalism, Virtue, and U.S. Physician Participation in the Death Penalty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the United States at present, the death penalty is a possible sentence in 31 out of 50 states, as well as within the military and for federal cases. In the U.S., numbers of executions are declining, in part due to moratoriums in place and challenges to execution by lethal injection. Participation by physicians in lethal injection executions has been steadfastly viewed by professional medical organizations as contrary to their ethical standards. However, physicians have participated in lethal injection executions, and the morality of the death penalty itself is a matter of intense social and political debate. Medical ethics commentators and professional organizations have typically held that the prohibition on physician participation in the death penalty is independent of the ethical status of the death penalty itself. This article argues that this view is untenable, and that it is tied to a view of professional role virtue that is similarly untenable. At the same time, it argues that, given the morally uncertain status of the death penalty, it is plausible that virtuous physicians may either refuse or choose to participate in some aspects of the death penalty.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages78-96
Number of pages19
JournalCriminal Justice Ethics
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

Fingerprint

death penalty
physician
death
participation
medical ethics
professional association
morality
professionalism
Military
present

Keywords

  • capital punishment
  • death penalty
  • humane execution
  • lethal injection
  • physician professionalism
  • professional ethics
  • virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

Cite this

Dr. Death? Professionalism, Virtue, and U.S. Physician Participation in the Death Penalty. / Walker, Rebecca L.

In: Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 36, No. 1, 02.01.2017, p. 78-96.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{c01efa2288a947a097067b2445ef8801,
title = "Dr. Death? Professionalism, Virtue, and U.S. Physician Participation in the Death Penalty",
abstract = "In the United States at present, the death penalty is a possible sentence in 31 out of 50 states, as well as within the military and for federal cases. In the U.S., numbers of executions are declining, in part due to moratoriums in place and challenges to execution by lethal injection. Participation by physicians in lethal injection executions has been steadfastly viewed by professional medical organizations as contrary to their ethical standards. However, physicians have participated in lethal injection executions, and the morality of the death penalty itself is a matter of intense social and political debate. Medical ethics commentators and professional organizations have typically held that the prohibition on physician participation in the death penalty is independent of the ethical status of the death penalty itself. This article argues that this view is untenable, and that it is tied to a view of professional role virtue that is similarly untenable. At the same time, it argues that, given the morally uncertain status of the death penalty, it is plausible that virtuous physicians may either refuse or choose to participate in some aspects of the death penalty.",
keywords = "capital punishment, death penalty, humane execution, lethal injection, physician professionalism, professional ethics, virtue",
author = "Walker, {Rebecca L.}",
year = "2017",
month = "1",
day = "2",
doi = "10.1080/0731129X.2017.1301520",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "36",
pages = "78--96",
journal = "Criminal Justice Ethics",
issn = "0731-129X",
publisher = "Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Dr. Death? Professionalism, Virtue, and U.S. Physician Participation in the Death Penalty

AU - Walker,Rebecca L.

PY - 2017/1/2

Y1 - 2017/1/2

N2 - In the United States at present, the death penalty is a possible sentence in 31 out of 50 states, as well as within the military and for federal cases. In the U.S., numbers of executions are declining, in part due to moratoriums in place and challenges to execution by lethal injection. Participation by physicians in lethal injection executions has been steadfastly viewed by professional medical organizations as contrary to their ethical standards. However, physicians have participated in lethal injection executions, and the morality of the death penalty itself is a matter of intense social and political debate. Medical ethics commentators and professional organizations have typically held that the prohibition on physician participation in the death penalty is independent of the ethical status of the death penalty itself. This article argues that this view is untenable, and that it is tied to a view of professional role virtue that is similarly untenable. At the same time, it argues that, given the morally uncertain status of the death penalty, it is plausible that virtuous physicians may either refuse or choose to participate in some aspects of the death penalty.

AB - In the United States at present, the death penalty is a possible sentence in 31 out of 50 states, as well as within the military and for federal cases. In the U.S., numbers of executions are declining, in part due to moratoriums in place and challenges to execution by lethal injection. Participation by physicians in lethal injection executions has been steadfastly viewed by professional medical organizations as contrary to their ethical standards. However, physicians have participated in lethal injection executions, and the morality of the death penalty itself is a matter of intense social and political debate. Medical ethics commentators and professional organizations have typically held that the prohibition on physician participation in the death penalty is independent of the ethical status of the death penalty itself. This article argues that this view is untenable, and that it is tied to a view of professional role virtue that is similarly untenable. At the same time, it argues that, given the morally uncertain status of the death penalty, it is plausible that virtuous physicians may either refuse or choose to participate in some aspects of the death penalty.

KW - capital punishment

KW - death penalty

KW - humane execution

KW - lethal injection

KW - physician professionalism

KW - professional ethics

KW - virtue

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85015678790&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85015678790&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/0731129X.2017.1301520

DO - 10.1080/0731129X.2017.1301520

M3 - Article

VL - 36

SP - 78

EP - 96

JO - Criminal Justice Ethics

T2 - Criminal Justice Ethics

JF - Criminal Justice Ethics

SN - 0731-129X

IS - 1

ER -