Doctors’ participation in executions violates medical ethics: IMA

Requests MCI to issue guideline

Published - October 24, 2017 09:41 pm IST - Bengaluru

The participation of doctors in State executions — a hotly debated ethics issue across the world — has now been taken up by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

The national body of over three lakh doctors has written to the Medical Council of India (MCI) requesting that a guideline be introduced, stating that physicians’ participation in execution is “unethical.”

The IMA’s letter comes in the wake of the World Medical Association’s (WMA) reaffirmation, during its general assembly in Chicago, U.S., on October 14 that “it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions.”

Monitor vital signs

In India, doctors are required to monitor vital signs during hanging and look for signs of life and then pronounce death.

Opposing the participation of doctors in any form, the WMA came out with a “Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment” in 1981 and amended it in 2008. The global organisation also requested its constituent member associations to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical.

Subsequently, in its general assembly in 2012, the WMA again passed a resolution reaffirming its 2008 resolution.

“The recently amended WMA Declaration of Geneva ‘The Physician’s Pledge’ adopted by the WMA general assembly on October 14, 2017, in Chicago, U.S., has again reaffirmed this. IMA as a founder member of WMA is bound to follow the resolution,” IMA national president K.K. Aggarwal told The Hindu .

He said the WMA had urged all its 114 constituent member associations to lobby actively with their national governments and legislators and ensure that physicians are not forced to participate in any form of capital punishment.

“For us, there is no difference between a prisoner or a common patient and our participation in executions is against the core tenets of medical ethics of “do no harm” (non-maleficence) and “do good” (beneficence),” Dr. Aggarwal said.

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