March 5, 2024

Lethal injections unethical, says The Lancet

gurney for lethal injections

There should be a moratorium on death by lethal injections in US prisons, argues an article in The Lancet after studying what actually happens when prisoners are executed in Virginia and Texas. The authors found that injections teams were not trained to administer anaesthetics and that there was no assessment of the depth of anaesthesia before a paralysing agent and a lethal drug were injected. They believe that some of the persons executed could have been awake and in agonising pain. This is enough, argue Dr Leonidas Koniaris, of the University of Miami, and his colleagues, to suspect that lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment”, which is forbidden by the US Constitution.

In an accompanying editorial, The Lancet says that too many American doctors are willing to participate in capital punishment. A survey of US doctors has found that 19% would be willing to inject lethal drugs. “Doctors should not be in the job of killing,” The Lancet thunders. “Those who do participate in this barbaric act are shameful examples of how a profession has allowed its values to be corrupted by state violence.”