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By order of the state
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, February 22, 2006

An interesting development in an attempted California execution:
The execution of a California man was delayed for at least 15 hours after two court-appointed anaesthesiologists walked off the job over ethical concerns.

Michael Morales, whose attorney had recruited former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to back his bid for clemency, had been scheduled to die at 12:01am PST (7.20 pm AEDT) yesterday for the rape and murder of an 17-year-old girl in 1981.

The execution could not take place after the doctors refused to be present to give the court-required certification that Morales, 46, was in fact unconscious before the lethal injection was given, thus minimising the pain.
How did it come to be that doctors had were required to be present?
Defence attorneys had claimed last week that the use of the lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment, barred by the Constitution.

This prompted a judge to order prison officials to either alter the composition of the lethal chemicals used or make medical experts available to ensure unnecessary pain was not inflicted during the execution.

US District Judge Jeremy Fogel had expressed concern that two of the three chemicals used in California, which should kill within a minute, sometimes took several minutes before stopping the condemned person's heart.

The state then agreed to provide an anaesthesiologist to attend the execution.
The state orders but the doctors balk. Why?
In a statement last week, Dr Priscilla Ray, chairwoman of the American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, condemned the ruling that required the anaesthesiologists present.

"The use of a physician's clinical skill and judgment for purposes other than promoting an individual's health and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine – first do no harm," she said.

"Requiring physicians to be involved in executions violates their oath to protect lives."
Ah, imagine that. Personal ethics and private entities.

The doctors found the action to be morally objectionable and against everything they stand for.

The state has ordered the attendence and participation of doctors at executions. Should doctors be made to participate in a procedure they find morally objectionable because the state has so ordered?

So tell me again why Wal-Mart (or any private business) should be required to carry the morning after pill in its pharmacy if they find it morally objectionable?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

There are plenty of doctors (OK, some doctors) who would sign on to this. Someone like Dr Kevorkian would be a logical choice.

I still don’t see how lethal injection - painless - is either cruel or unusual.

Whe he did to her was both cruel and unusual.

Written By: Mike Z
Mike the argument of the post isn’t at all about what the criminal did. It’s whether the state has the right to order people or businesses to do something they find morally objectionable.

I’m of the opinion it doesn’t.
Written By: McQ
I can’t imagine how the state should legally, ethically, morally, etc. be able to compel a doctor to take part in an execution unless it was defined as part of his job duties. In that case the doc shouldn’t take the job or should quit. The article doesn’t really state the relationship between the docs and the state. "Court-appointed" is vague.
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
McQ—I don’t think a state "has the right" to do anything—whether or not it should do something is where I tend to focus the discussion.

And here, in my view, the doctors requirement is a useless formality.
Written By: Adam
Not to mention, why should the State of New York require interns to be trained in giving abortions?

More info.
Written By: Nathan
C’mon, guys, McQ’s question isn’t that hard to answer.

It doesn’t matter whether some crazy libertarian like McQ thinks there’s an inconsistency here or not.. The reason WalMart is forced to carry the morning after pill and doctors can walk out of the death chamber is because these are two things liberals are in favor of.
Written By: steve sturm
It’s whether the state has the right to order people or businesses to do something they find morally objectionable.
I find the Iraq (now Civil) War morally objectionable. I am required to pay for it, however, by the state. And unlike Wal Mart, and the pharms who work there, I will go to jail if I don’t pay for it. And unlike the Wal Mart, and the pharms who work there, who choose to operate and work in a pharmacy, my being forced to pay for the war is a consequence of my need to survive, i.e., I have to earn money - that is taxed - to live. I don’t have a choice to be in the earning business. Wal Mart and the pharms who work there do have a choice to do something else.

The state forces us to do things all the time that we may find morally objectionable. In some cases, unlike the Wal Mart example, you can be locked if you don’t do it. Welcome to the real world.

The nice thing about a democracy is that we have some say in what the state can require us to do. My message to the whiners at Wal Mart: work to change the law or get out of the business. But just quit whining.
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
The state forces us to do things all the time that we may find morally objectionable.

So then, I conclude that MK believes that doctors should be forced to attend at executions.
Written By: equitus
URL: http://
Speaking of quiting whining... Mkultra, how about moving to Spain, or France? Then you can work (or not, there seems to be some nice bene’s for that, too) and not have to fund the Overthrowing of an Evil Dictator (who killed people witghout their consent and for mind-numbingly inconsequential things).

Arrghh!!! Grow Up!


McQ, do you think the CA courts (prisons ?) are accepting alternate forms of execution? I bet there are a few people who would be willing to part with a round or two, just to ease the back log they are experiencing...
Written By: Tom_with_a_Dream
URL: http://
So then, I conclude that MK believes that doctors should be forced to attend at executions.
If a law was enacted requiring them to do so, and if it could withstand constitutional challenge, I don’t see what choice they would have. Of course, the penalty for failing to do so probably wouldn’t be jail. On the other hand, there is little chance of such a law passing.

What you don’t seem to grasp if there is no right of an individual to disobey a law that applies to the individual simply because the individual finds the law "morally objectionable." No society could operate if such a right existed. Think about it - anyone, anywhere, could veto a law simply because they claimed it was morally objectionable. And how exactly would that work?

I’m not going to drive under the speed limit because I find it morally objectionable.

I’m not going to stop at a red light because I find doing so morally objectionable.

I’m not ... well, you get the picture.

Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
"But just quit whining."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
McQ, do you think the CA courts (prisons ?) are accepting alternate forms of execution? I bet there are a few people who would be willing to part with a round or two, just to ease the back log they are experiencing...
I agree. I think we should go back to the firing squad. Better yet, what about the guillotine? More importantly, I think we should broadcast all executions. And if we go back to the firing squad, I want close ups of the head shot. See the head snap back - maybe slow motion replays too. Way slow. Watch the bullet enter the skull. My only complaint is that the death is too quick. No time to enjoy the agony.

And we could do it Chinese style - dig the bullet out, send it back to the dead man’s family,and bill them for it.
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Hey, what say we start televising abortions?

Just a thought...
Written By: equitus
URL: http://
Let me get this straight. Doctors will take the life of an unborn child, but their ethics prevent them from stating that a rapist/murderer is unconcious? Now that is moral ethics!
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
Thats sort of a false comparason Alex. We dont know that any of these doctors perform abortions. Certainly if they did, then there would be hypocracy to point out. What this whole post is about though, is the state forcing you to do actions you find morally objectionable. Just like NY state apparently forcing doctors to learn to perform abortions, just like states forcing walmart to carry certain products it does not wish to carry. Is this much different than the draft? This is about the govt having way too much control over our lives.
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
Mkultra -

I presume you are trying to make fun of my too-simple argument... Well, instead you’ve made my point. I happen to agree that we should offer public viewings of the duely selected punishment. As I heard on the radio the other day, there is very little (I think he quoted murder) in Saudi Arabia; why, because they kill you for it, and very soon. (Not sure if they do it "compassionately", maybe you’ll look into that for us.)

And the Chinese notion of billing the criminals family for the bullet is EXTREMELY minor compared to the bill that should be levied against the criminal (I won’t say thier family, not always their fault) for the pain, etc caused by the crime...

Again, I say GROW UP!!
Written By: Tom_with_a_Dream
URL: http://
Well Chris. It seems that the answer is simple. The government should have gotten a couple of doctors that don’t mind killing a few defenseless humans. This way, it would ensure that these doctors wouldn’t mind killing a reprehensible one. If the government had simply done that instead of ORDERING these doctors to check and see if this animal were conscious, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The government forces us to do things we don’t want to do every day. Taxes, gun control, imminent domain, etc., etc., etc.
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
mkultra raises a good point: the State compels us to do things that we might find objectionable all the time. We all have lines that we don’t want to cross on religious or moral grounds. How we and the State deal with those limits is tricky. I suppose that the resolution lies in how many people agree with those lines, or at least are willing to concede that other people find them inviolable.

For example, our country has recognized that there are people who have a genuine, deep-seated objection to taking human life, even in war. If it can be demonstrated that a person is a genuine conscientious objector and not a yellow coward looking to save his worthless skin by pretending to be a CO, then our laws allow that he should not have to serve in the Armed Forces, or at least should only serve in a role that will not require him to enter into combat such as in a stateside hospital.

On the other hand, there are many other laws that require people to perform acts that are "objectionable" but don’t rise to the level of violating a deeply held moral or religious tenent, or at least not one that is held by the majority of the population. The penalties for refusing to perform the act vary depending on how serious the situation is and what the costs are to society for the person refusing to perform the act.

For example, a muslim woman might object to having her drivers license photo taken with her face unveiled. Most Americans, while they may understand her objection, are not willing to accept it. Therefore she may well be penalized by having her license denied. A Christian might object to having to work on Sunday, and pay the penalty of losing his job.

Ultimately, a person must make the decision for himself: is the act so objectionable that he will be willing to pay the penalties for his refusal to perform it?
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
Docjim -

The state of Florida did not compel that Muslim woman to have her photo taken sans veil, her desire to partake in the PRIVILEDGE of driving (note that it is not a Right, look it up in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and every state statute) that was compelling her to be photographed.

Yes, it would be sad that she couldn’t drive her family around, but that’s the way that cookie crumbles. And yes, it is sad that (Christian) friends of mine have forgone higher paying jobs when they asked too much of them (in the spirit of your "working on Sunday" comment).
As the Cookie Crumbles. We make sacrifices every single day based on our personal compass. The government’s job is not to be our compass.

You examples were good, but they were not apples-to-apples.
Written By: Tom_with_a_Dream
URL: http://
As first principle, I would say that no one should be forced against their principles to do anything in their job unless they agreed to it pre-employment.
However, I must say I was a bit puzzled by the reasons given. They are not asked to be the executioner, just to make sure the patient (as it were) continues to be unconscious. It would be interesting to see where these people are on assisted suicide. A strict reading of the Hippocratic oath might suggest that you can’t possibly harm the patient for any reason. An assisted suicide doctor is making sure that the patient feels the least amount of pain (mentioned wrt Kevorkian above)
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://
They are not asked to be the executioner, just to make sure the patient (as it were) continues to be unconscious.
I don’t think they see it as that simple…
It contains a list of prohibited forms of participation that is drawn from the AMA’s own ethics guidelines against doctor roles in executions. They include prescribing, administering or supervising the use of any drug during an execution; monitoring the condemned inmate for vital signs; and determining the moment of death.
They may not only have moral and ethical inhibitions, but also financial…
Dr. Priscilla Ray, a Houston psychiatrist who is chairman of the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, said the organization’s opposition to physician participation in capital punishment was codified in 1980 and updated several times during the 1990s.
Ray said that only a handful of states give its ethical guidelines the force of law, and California is not one of them. The AMA can sanction its own members for participating in executions — including expelling them from membership — but the reasons for such a revocation are not made public.
Being expelled from the AMA might not look so good on the resume.

This case is extremely interesting.
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://

Thanks for your comments.

I expressed myself badly; I didn’t mean to imply that I thought that the muslim woman had a right to be photographed with her veil on... but I’m sure that she thinks that she did. At any rate, the difference between the muslim woman and the doctors in California is of difference and not of kind: in both cases, the state has required a citizen to do something that the citizen claims to find objectionable. Should a penalty be paid? If so, what? Where do the rights of the citizen end and the rights of the state / society begin?
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
That just sidesteps the decision maker. The more interesting question, I thought, was how that affects their views on assisted suicide.
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://

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