To the Editor:
It appears that neither the Connecticut courts nor the Connecticut legislature will block New England’s first execution in 40 years. Therefore, the question now is: What Connecticut doctor will forsake his or her professional ethics in order to allow the execution to proceed?
The state’s execution protocol calls for a “Connecticut licensed and practicing physician” to verify the training of both the executioner (who injects the lethal drugs) and the person who inserts the intravenous catheter through which the drugs will flow. Furthermore, a physician must enter the execution chamber and pronounce the inmate dead.
The ethical guidelines of the American Medical Association, which are endorsed by the Connecticut State Medical Society, clearly state that a physician may not consult with or supervise personnel involved in a lethal injection. Furthermore, these guidelines forbid a physician from monitoring vital signs at an execution. Monitoring vital signs (such as observing an EKG monitor, or checking for the presence of heart tones, pulse, or breathing) is necessary to pronounce death. Thus, the Connecticut execution protocol is in direct conflict with nationally recognized ethical standards for the medical profession.
Medical professionalism is a cornerstone of a stable society. When a government policy leads to a failure of medical professional ethics — as the downfall of medicine in Nazi Germany dramatically reminds us — not only are physicians degraded, but all of society suffers. For the sake of all of Connecticut’s citizens, Yale students should call on their University to condemn physician participation in lethal injection.
Jonathan I. Groner, M.D.
Jan. 10, 2005
The writer is medical director of the trauma program at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.