Medical ethics, cultural values, and physician participation in lethal injection.
J. K. Boehnlein, R. M. Parker, R. M. Arnold, C. F. Bosk and L. F. Sparr,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
23(1): 129-34, 1995.
Capital punishment by lethal injection has been discussed in the literature, but there has been no
consideration of the sociocultural foundations of the ethical issues related to medical aspects of
capital punishment. Lethal injection represents the inappropriate medicalization of a complex social
issue whereby medical skills and procedures are used in ways that contradict established medical
practice. Although physicians are socialized to their healing role during medical education and
training, their behavior is influenced by social and cultural values that both precede and coexist with
their professional life. Because of this dynamic interplay between professional and sociocultural
values, physicians can neither exempt themselves from societal debate by merely invoking
professional ethics, nor can they define their professional role exclusively in terms of societal values
that potentially diminish personal and collective professional responsibility. It is essential that
physicians have a broad historical perspective on the development of the profession's standards and
values in order to deal effectively with present and future complex ethical issues. [References: 29]