Washington prison doctor quits over death penalty
The top doctor in the Washington Department of Corrections has resigned, saying the use of medical staff to prepare for an execution is unethical.
The state Department of Corrections' top medical officer has resigned, saying that the use of staff members to prepare for an execution is unethical.
Dr. Marc Stern, who lives in Olympia, said the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician involvement in executions, "and they say physicians should not supervise somebody who is involved in executions."
"The only way out we found was for me to recuse myself, and the only way I could recuse myself was to resign," he said.
The agency had been set to execute murderer Darold Ray Stenson this month. The execution has been postponed.
Stern said he supervised about 700 people in prisons and other corrections facilities statewide. He said at least one of the people he supervised had been involved in execution preparations at Walla Walla State Penitentiary.
He told his superiors that he objected to his division's involvement, but no solution was found, he said.
Scott Blonien, assistant secretary of the department, characterized Stern's objections as more individual than professional.
"It's clear to us that Marc had a personal, ethical conflict, and we respect that. There's nothing we would want to do in the department to cause someone to commit a violation of their personal ethics," he said.
Taking part in an execution is voluntary for all department employees — a policy found in other states and the federal prison system, Blonien said. That policy was in place in 2001, the last time the state executed somebody, he said.
The American Medical Association says physicians shouldn't take part in "an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned."
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