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Capital Punishment Essay – The Fatal State of the Death-Penalty System

The Fatal State of the Death-Penalty System

In 1997, the state of Florida botched Pedro Medina’s execution. When the switch was flipped on the 50-year-old electric chair, nicknamed “Old Sparky,” the mask covering Medina’s face caught on fire. Flames up to a foot long shot of his face for 6-10 seconds. A thick, black smoke filled the room, and the prison guards closed the curtain, hiding the rest of the job from the shocked witnesses. Bob Butterworth, then Florida’s attorney general, said that Medina’s agonizing death would be a deterrent to crime. People who want to commit murder, he said, better not do so in Florida because “we may have a problem with our electric chair.”

Such cases are likely to horrify death penalty proponents and foes alike. (After another botched execution in 1999, this time with the new electric chair, Florida gave inmates the option of lethal injection or the chair). What is even more abominable than these clear instances of “cruel and unusual punishment,” however, is the mounting evidence that many people being convicted of murder, sent to death row, and probably even executed in the United States are simply not guilty. The only way to reasonably evaluate the system without running the risk of executing more innocents in the process is for Congress to issue an immediate national moratorium on executions.

On Jan 31, 2000, Governor George Ryan (R-IL), a death-penalty proponent, announced a moratorium on executions in his state until the system is investigated. Governor Ryan had more than sufficient grounds to say that Illinois’s criminal-justice system is “fraught with error”: Since 1977, when Illinois reinstated the death penalty (following a 1976 Supreme-Court ruling allowing states to do …

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…s-16,000 of them, dating back five years.” While rapists can be feed from prison if DNA evidence clears them, executions are irrevocable. Given the problems in state and national DNA databanks, it is crucial that those on death row get more time to explore any evidence that could exonerate them.

Governor George W. Bush of Texas (where 463 people are on death row) maintains that he is certain that every person of the over 100 who have been executed during his tenure is guilty. The fact that Texas has no public-defender system and that Bush has spent much time over the past year campaigning outside the state has not made a dent in Bush’s certainty. For those who, regardless of their stance on the death penalty, would like to take the time to examine the evidence and aim for a higher standard, state and national moratoriums are presently the best course of action.

Capital Punishment Essay – Physician Participation in the Death Penalty

Physician Participation in Administration of Death Penalty is Legitimate

The question has been raised whether it is moral for a physician to participate in the administration of the death penalty. This is an issue that many professionals in the field have strong opinions about, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the death penalty in general. Physicians are traditionally practitioners of the healing arts; is using this knowledge to put someone to death a corruption of their professional ethics? In order to fully understand the issues surrounding physician participation in the death penalty, it is necessary to explore three main areas of analysis. First, we must survey the ethical justification for the death penalty. If the death penalty itself is morally unjustified, then physician participation in it is, by definition, wrong. Secondly, justification of the death penalty aside, do condemned criminals retain a right to health that the death penalty would violate? Finally, we will examine the special duties of the physician – even if the death penalty in general is justified, is there perhaps a subtler breach of ethical duties by inviting physician participation in the process?

Ethical Justification

Returning to our first sphere of inquiry, is the death penalty justified — does it violate a prisoner’s human right to health? Traditionally, two main explanations for the death penalty have been offered – deterrence and vengeance. The evidence on deterrence is doubtful at best. On the one hand, statistics do not indicate the existence of a significant deterrent effect. A United Nations committee studying capital punishment found that “the data which now exist show no correlation between the existence of capital…

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…viewed as a healthy relationship. For those doctors who believe in the death penalty, there should be no sanctions for participating in a legal procedure, which they are doing for the best interests of society, and in the name of justice.


By examining the justifications behind the death penalty and the human rights criminals retain upon being convicted of a felony, we were unable to deduce any legitimate grounds upon which physicians, or any health personnel, should be excluded from participating in executions. While some physicians would argue that participation by doctors in administering the death penalty amounts to a betrayal of the very precepts of medicine, I have attempted to provide an alternate perspective on the situation. Just as no doctor should be compelled to assist in an execution, no doctor should be banned from doing so, either.

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