Capital Punishment Essay - Physician Participation in the Death Penalty

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Physician Participation in Administration of Death Penalty is Legitimate


The question has been raised whether it is moral for a physician to participate in the administration of the death penalty. This is an issue that many professionals in the field have strong opinions about, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the death penalty in general. Physicians are traditionally practitioners of the healing arts; is using this knowledge to put someone to death a corruption of their professional ethics? In order to fully understand the issues surrounding physician participation in the death penalty, it is necessary to explore three main areas of analysis. First, we must survey the ethical justification for the death penalty. If the
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"We partly know who those are whom it has not deterred; but who is there who knows whom it has deterred, or how many human beings it has saved who would have [without the threat of the death penalty] lived to be murderers?" For reasons such as these, it is difficult to use the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the death penalty to either support or oppose its application. Basing the permissibility of the death penalty is similar to gambling; its proponents gamble with the lives of criminals that it does, in fact, have a deterrence effect; it's opponents gamble with the lives of potential victim that it does not.

Whether the motive of vengeance, or retribution - which some would actually call justice -- is a moral reason for using the death penalty is similarly debatable. Aristotle defined justice as "giving each his due." This type of justice is interpreted by some to be supportive of the lex talionis philosophy - "that the worst crime be punished with society's worst penalty." Opponents of the death penalty feel that it is barbaric and savage; an advanced society such as ours should not participate in it. Once again, however, it is merely a matter of opinion. To argue that "capital punishment is inconsistent with the advancement of civilization, is to rely on arbitrary definitions of 'advancement' and 'civilization' for a circular argument."

Thus, whether the death penalty…