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December 28, 1994

Ruling on Physician Role in Prisoner Executions

JAMA. 1994;272(24):1888. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520240016006

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A COOK COUNTY Circuit Court has ordered the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board to conduct a proper hearing of a complaint against physicians who assist in the execution of prisoners.

On November 29, Judge Thomas J. O'Brien ruled that the director of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation had no right to unilaterally dismiss a complaint filed by four Illinois physicians, Quentin Young, MD, Robert H. Kirschner, MD, William P. Gibbons, MD, and Edward A. Brunner, MD, PhD, and Physicians for Human Rights, an international humanitarian organization based in Boston, Mass.

The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce professional standards that prohibit physician participation in executions (JAMA. 1993;269:721-723).

Illinois' execution statute requires executions to be performed by lethal injection of drugs "sufficient to cause death until death is pronounced by a licensed physician according to the accepted standards of medical practice." Illinois is the only state that has enacted what the plaintiffs

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