Thursday, April 12, 2007


Some nurses in North Carolina are trying to get their licensing board to make a statement halting the participation of nurses in executions.

"It is clearly against our code of ethics,'' said Raleigh nurse Cynthia Gallion, who has collected more than 80 signatures on a petition urging the nursing board to act.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is already on record as strongly opposed to nurse participation in capital punishment.
"Participation in executions is viewed as contrary to the fundamental goals and ethical traditions of the profession."

The statement from the ANA made way back in 1994 states:
Historically, the role of the nurse has been to promote, preserve and protect human life. The ANA Code for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (Code for Nurses) is grounded in the basic principles of respect for persons, the non-infliction of harm and fidelity to recipients of nursing care. The Code for Nurses, nursing's ethical code of conduct, stipulates that "the nurse does not act deliberately to terminate the life of any person." The obligation to refrain from causing death is longstanding and should not be breached even when legally sanctioned. Participation in capital punishment is inconsistent with these ethical precepts and the goals of the profession. The ANA is strongly opposed to all forms of participation, by whatever means, whether under civil or military legal authority. Nurses should refrain from participation in capital punishment and not take part in assessment, supervision or monitoring of the procedure or the prisoner; procuring, prescribing or preparing medications or solutions; inserting the intravenous catheter; injecting the lethal solution; and attending or witnessing the execution as a nurse. The fact that capital punishment is currently supported in many segments of society does not override the obligation of nurses to uphold the ethical mandates of the profession. The ANA recognizes that the endorsement of the death penalty remains a personal decision and that individual nurses may have views that are different from the official position of the profession. Regardless of the personal opinion of the nurse on the appropriateness of capital punishment, it is a breach of the ethical traditions of nursing, and the Code for Nurses to participate in taking life of any person.

A joint statement from The American Medical Association, The American Nurses Association, The American Public Health Association made on Sept. 13, 1996 read:

Participation in executions contradicts the fundamental role of the health care professional as healer and comforter. It threatens the integrity of the relationship prison health care professional and their prisoner patients.

Seven years ago the New Jersey State Nurses Association wrote:

...emphatically believes that participation by a nurse in any form of killing, however painless, is a blatant violation of the social contract between the nurse and the client, the Nursing Practice Act of the State of New Jersey and the Code for Nurses of the American Nurses’ Association.

The N.C. Nurses Association plans to discuss the issue at a meeting this month, although its position would not be binding on the licensing board.

It seems pretty clear to me. The whole concept of nurses participating in executions seems to me to be against everything nursing stands for.

The following is from the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Some nurses want ban on execution role

A group of nurses who have asked their licensing board to adopt an ethics policy prohibiting them from participating in executions must take their case to the legislature, a spokesman for the N.C. Board of Nursing said.

A few nurses are urging the board to follow the example set by the state medical board, which in earlier this year threatened to punish any physician who participates in an execution.

"It is clearly against our code of ethics," said Raleigh nurse Cynthia Gallion, who has collected more than 80 signatures on a petition urging the nursing board to act.

But David Kalbacker, a spokesman for the nursing board, said the board can't discipline a nurse who takes part in an execution unless lawmakers amend the Nursing Practice Act so that it prohibited such an action.

"We have to make a legislative change," Kalbacker said. "We can't make an announcement."

Such a change to the state's Medical Practice Act wasn't required for the medical board, which has the power under state law to discipline doctors who fail to comply with its ethics policies.

Gallion said she plans to ask the board to approach the legislature, but she may be out of time.

The deadline for the introduction of legislation has passed in the Senate.

In the House, the deadline is April 18, less than a week away.

The medical board's declaration that any doctor who participates in an execution violates medical ethics and could face sanction triggered a series of legal actions that effectively shut down the state's capital punishment system. The state attorney general's office tried and failed to resolve the dispute outside of court, and later sued.

The N.C. Nurses Association, a professional organization that does not license and discipline nurses, once barred nurses from participating in executions.

But the group changed that policy in 2003 and now leaves the decision up to the individual nurse.

It does, however, oppose prison officials requiring that nurses participate in executions as part of their jobs.

The issue has arisen again and been referred to the commission on standards and practices, which next meets April 30, said Tina Gordon, the association's executive director.

State law does not require that a nurse attend an execution.

However, court records and depositions from prison officials indicate that at least two nurses have been present at the past several executions.

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