MA: doctors should not be part of execution process

MA: doctors should not be part of execution process

India’s largest body of doctors has written to the Medical Council of India, opposing the involvement of doctors in the hanging process, as mandated by jail manuals.

“Indian Medical Association (IMA) holds the view that no doctor should be present during the process of execution. This is a violation of medical ethics and therefore a professional misconduct,” K K Agarwal, national president of IMA, and R N Tandon, its secretary general, wrote.

The IMA’s letter comes in the wake of a similar resolution adopted by the World Medical Association (WMA)earlier this month.

The global body of medical professionals were approached last year by a section of Bangaldeshi doctors who resented their participation in the capital punishment process.

After multiple rounds of internal discussions, the global body had adopted a resolution which states, “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.”

In their letter to MCI president Jaushree Mehta, the IMA office-bearers cited the WMA resolution to argue against the practice mandated by many prison manuals. Nearly three lakh doctors are members of the IMA.“Doctors are required to monitor vital signs during the process of execution and look for signs of life and then pronounce death. This is against the core tenets of medical ethics of “do no harm” (non-maleficence) and “do good” (beneficence),” Agarwal and Tandon wrote.

Jail doctors also certify whether a convict is fit for hanging. In 2014, on the basis of the medical reports of Sikh militant Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, his sentence to death was converted to a life sentence.

“We are not opposed to capital punishment per se, but only against the involvement of doctors. Jail manual can’t decide on medical ethics. We are for a debate on this issue,” Agarwal told DH.

The debate is not a new one. The WMA in 1981 came out with the “Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment”, which was amended in 2008. Closer home, the National Human Rights Commission, too, had opposed the involvement of doctors in the hanging process.

“The WMA requests firmly its constituent members to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical,” stated the WMA resolution.“One must understand the serious implications of this because if doctors withdraw from their tasks they currently fulfill, there can’t be any legal hanging,” G S Grewal, former president of Punjab Medical Council said.

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