Emergency ethics post

I’ve been scouring the web looking for anything official on Georgia death penalty procedures.  News outlets have been reporting that Troy Davis, a Georgia inmate scheduled to be executed tonight, underwent a physical exam before being transported to the killing chamber.  I’ve already argued in the past that doctors have no place taking part in executions.  At the time, doctors were coming under fire for assisting with lethal injections, pronouncing inmates dead after they’d been killed, and other “medicalized” tasks.  But a physical exam? Let’s assume the news reports are correct and that this really happened.  What’s the point?

A physical exam assess the health of a patient.  I use physical exam data to guide in the prevention and treatment of disease.  What possible use could there be to examining someone before you kill them?  I frequently do “pre-operative” assessments in which surgeons ask me if the patient is healthy enough to undergo surgery.

Any physician who does a “pre-killing” exam and doesn’t state that “the procedure is too risky for the patient and should be cancelled” should lose their license.

Previous Post
Next Post

4 Comments

  1. The whole thing is f_cked up, period. If this wasn’t such a serious issue, I would point out George Carlin’s joke about using antiseptic at the site of the IV.

  2. DLC

     /  September 22, 2011

    I am reminded of reading the Texas correctional system’s guidelines for executions, and discovering that a prisoner about to be executed may request a last meal, but that said meal can be denied him if prison officials consider it unhealthy. My reaction then was much as yours now. It was a giant WTF moment. I can see someone (usually a county medical examiner or prison doctor) certifying death — there’s a legal requirement for that in order to issue a death certificate — but I just can’t see the logic in doing a physical. What happens if the doctor in question notices a lump, or a cardiac arrhythmia ?
    Do they go on and kill the guy ? I can’t see the use in it.

  3. Karen

     /  September 22, 2011

    Any physician who does a “pre-killing” exam and doesn’t state that “the procedure is too risky for the patient and should be cancelled” should lose their license.

    YES!!!!!

  4. Back in 1991, at the commencement of the first Gulf war, I found myself discussing the question of product liability for weapons. Would the manufacturer be at fault if they failed or if they succeeded?

%d bloggers like this: