Why physicians participate in executions

Execution commonly known as death sentence or death penalty has been considered as a form of punishment for centuries throughout the world. This form of punishment was opted for many criminal offenses including petty cases. However, in some countries execution was reserved for specific crimes like murder. Capital punishment employed methods of torture some of which are still being used today. According to Banner (2002), the number of crimes that qualified one for execution begun to go down in the 18th century due to the strengthening of humanitarian movements and democratic philosophy in many countries across the globe (Banner, 2002). This disappearance of death penalty also started after many people around the world argued that punishment of any form ought to be humane and not a form of cruelty acts which undermined humanity. This argument applied to all methods of execution which were commonly used in dealing with crime. It also emerged in many cases that life imprisonment was more appropriate compared to execution.

Common methods of execution which were and some are still in use include but not limited to burning of culprits who mainly comprised of witches, heretics and suspicious women. Hanging, which is still practiced in most parts of the world, was also considered as a form of punishment associated with a number of crimes. On the other hand, the use a Headman’s Axe was the most inhumane form of execution. This involved the beheading of criminals using an axe. The practice died off in mid 18th century.

The question of whether execution is good or evil has been of great discussion in human history with other people arguing that it extremely violated human rights. On the other hand, execution has been viewed as a way of controlling weird behavior through discouraging. However, a controversy has always surrounded execution in relation to the potential that is available to doctors and medical practitioners. Should medical doctors be allowed to carry out execution? Is it legal for a person to phase capital punishment? If yes, would this violate Medical Law and Ethics? Beyond these, the debate has always revolved around advantages and disadvantages of medical execution as thought and viewed by other people as a safer and humane way of dealing with those condemned to death as a result of criminal offences (Banner, 2002). It is also not clear whether doctors support the idea of execution with substantial powers resting in their hands but tied with the question of ethics and legal provisions. Even as these deliberations continue, religious groups have not been left out. It is worth noting that most religious leaders especially Christians have been on the fore front in condemning execution since it was against biblical teachings.

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Pros and cons of execution

Many supporters of this form of punishment base their arguments on the fact it is a considerable way of preventing crime in the world. Without such a method, deterring people from criminal activities would not be easy since many have devised ways of escaping capture. Although imprisonment deters people from crime, it is less effective since the expiry of prison term usually implies that the victim reconnects with his/her family and may resume previous criminal life without arrest worry. Additionally, execution is a better way of exercising justice. In relation to principles of justice, every punishment offered to an individual has to properly fit the crime committed; an idea that has been seen to rhyme with execution of criminals (Cassell & Bedau, 2005). A case in mind is when a person commits murder under whatever circumstances. Such people deserve execution since it equals to the committed crime.

Another advantage of execution is that it protects the interests of the victim unlike most justice systems around the world which emphasize protection of the rights of criminals. This notion has implanted a perception in the society that condones criminal behavior. There has been a long line of victims waiting for justice to be done in vain. As a result, many believe that justice can only be earned by complete adoption of capital punishment (Cassell & Bedau, 2005). Another basis of execution is the fact that there is enough growth in technology which has eliminated the worry of making medical errors. Advanced DNA testing machines have been invented thus making it easier to clear the question of mistaken innocence.

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Have we ever asked ourselves where prisoners go when they freely escape from prisons around the world? These people find themselves back in the society and continue propagating criminal activities at an even advanced level. Death penalty does not give criminals a second chance to carry out criminal activities. It is important to note that even though many prisoners may not get an opportunity to escape from prisons, they have a chance to continue with criminal activities and even kill during detention. Moreover, overpopulation of prisoners in the world has been a major problem not only in Africa or in developed countries but even in the U.S and other Western countries. Increase in the number of prisoners requires expansion of prisons, additional guards, extra food and clothing (Pojman & Reiman, 1998). When prisoners are executed, overcrowding in prisons is eliminated.   

Is right to kill? This is the question which many who don’t support the idea of execution have always asked. Arguing from this perspective, execution has a number of cons and weaknesses which have found their way in many discussion forums in the world. For instance, capital punishment is not done free of charge be it by a doctor or state agents. It heavily costs taxpayer’s money to have a criminal being executed instead of having such people retained in prisons and other rehabilitation centers. It is of profound importance to note that executions are more than two times expensive to carry out than having those convicted of criminal activities being retained in prisons for the rest of their lives. This is due to the fact that execution cases take lengthy procedures before a final decision are reached. Many resources have been wasted in paying attorneys, judges, court clerks and other people who facilitate this process (Yorke, 2008). All these expenses are catered for by taxpayers who toil to earning a living.

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Execution is a violation of human rights throughout human history. It is a barbaric way of punishing law breakers regardless of the method used (Radelet, 1990). Many people fail to understand their constitutions especially when dealing with the issue of execution. For example the eighth commandment of the constitution of the United States prohibits the use of cruel and unusual forms of punishment at any given moment. On the other hand, execution promotes revenge among people. Developing an eye for an eye mentality in a society breeds nothing but hatred which is a direct derivative of violence (Pojman & Reiman, 1998). Two wrongs don’t make a right. Does it make sense to kill a person in order to show that killing is evil? It sounds inhuman to murder wrong doers. Other options of punishment should be explored with preference being given to life imprisonment.

Doctors and execution

Doctors in organized medicine argue that execution is unethical and should be allowed to continue being used as a form of punishment by different states. Despite this ethical basis, many people including politicians and judges have argued that lethal injection is important. This controversy has been backed by the fact that when lethal injection is used, there are chances of the condemned to become paralyzed or adversely affected with the injection. However, in some states like California and Missouri, prisoners are usually unconscious during the whole process, an order given by judges to all physicians. Although some physicians consider execution as a fair, humane and ethical method of punishment, prison officials have found it had to get doctors who are willing to carry out the exercise. Many doctors prefer enjoying their career without being involved in executions (Kaufman-Osborn, 2002). Notably, the American Medical association rule does not allow doctors to participate executions in any way including offering of technical advice as a profession. However, a number of states in U.S allow the presence of doctors during execution but Illinois and Kentucky are noted for completely barring doctors’ participation in execution.

On the other hand, some states argue that physicians have to be present in order to monitor the functions of vital body parts and organs and to certify death upon completion of the process of execution. Controversy over this issue has led to conflicts between judiciary and medical boards in many states. After the doctors refused to aid executions and were sued by North Carolina Department of corrections, the medical board argued that oversight or regulation of execution was not a medical procedure and therefore doctors were not to participate in the exercise (Kaufman-Osborn, 2002). In other cases, medical boards have been forced to severely punish doctors who participate in executions through suspensions and license revocation. This is because of the notion that participation of doctors in execution vilifies the whole profession. Involvement of doctors in execution implies that, medicine as a profession can be used to kill someone in the name of punishment. In contrast, a number of doctors believe that participation in executions was an analgesic. They further view those on death row as cancer patients in hospitals only that latter suffer from a court order related cancer. This scrimmage continues to exist without hope of finding a lasting solution.

Religion and execution

Like other organizations in the world, different religions have varying arguments regarding capital punishment. There has always been disagreement among Buddhists on whether execution is acceptable. According to Buddhism teachings, life is precious and loved by everyone. Therefore everybody has a right to live. This statement supports the fact that other forms of correction punishments should be considered apart from execution (Carlson, Elshtain & Owens, 2004). It is however notable that Thailand whose main religion is Buddhism strongly supports death penalties.

In Islam, execution is not directly allowed. The   victim plays a major role in decision making and may pardon a criminal especially if the case has not received final endorsement. Quran teachings however do not record murder under forms of punishment. Similarly, there is no uniform conclusion over execution among Christians. Other believe that Jesus’ teachings highly condemn capital punishment when he was talking about turning the other cheek just in case a friend slapped you. The argument against execution is also based on the story of the adulterous woman when Jesus asked any person who was clean to be the first to throw a stone. The sixth Commandment in the Bible warns against murder. On the other hand, potions of the Bible like Leviticus have a list of the nature of crimes which deserve execution (The Holy Bible). It is clear that execution is a heated and controversial discussion topic which lacks a common view point.

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