When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions.

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Opposing the participation of doctors, the World Medical Association (WMA) came out with a “Resolution on physician participation in capital punishment” in 1981 and amended in 2008. resolution stated as follows “RESOLVED, 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.

Dr KK Aggarwal raised a valid question "Should doctors participate in state executions or capital punishments? He further said this is a very controversial issue in medical ethics and Doctors are required to monitor vital signs during the process of execution (hanging in case of India) and look for signs of life and then pronounce death. This is against medical ethics he said."

On the other hand The World Medical Association Requested firmly its constituent members to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical also its constituent members to lobby actively national governments and legislators against any participation of physicians in capital punishment” As citizens, physicians have the right to form views about capital punishment based on their individual moral beliefs. As members of the medical profession, they must uphold the prohibition against participation in capital punishment.

The WMA Declaration of Geneva or the "Modern Hippocratic Oath", first adopted in 1948 was recently amended in October 2017 at the annual general assembly in Chicago, USA The revised version also stated. “As a member of the medical profession: The health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration, I will maintain the utmost respect for human life and I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat” This final version of the Declaration of Geneva has been accepted by all member national medical associations including the Indian Medical Association (IMA)

The World Medical Association today has a membership of 112 national medical associations. IMA is a founder member of this world body. This makes India a signatory to all policies and resolutions adopted by the WMA. Hence, the WMA Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment should be implemented in our country.

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