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August 16, 1995

Physicians in Missouri (but Not Illinois) Win Battle to Block Physician Participation in Executions

JAMA. 1995;274(7):524. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530070022007

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PHYSICIANS IN Missouri have succeeded in getting the state to remove language from its statutes that requires a physician to participate in the execution of death sentences.

On July 5, Gov Mel Carnahan signed into law a bill making Missouri the first state to rescind its requirement that a physician assist in executions.

The statutes of 27 other states require or invite physicians to play at least some role in executions, usually as a witness or as the person responsible for pronouncing death. Even these acts, however, are considered a violation of established standards of professional conduct by the American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Physicians, World Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and other health professional organizations (JAMA. 1993;269:721-723 and 1993;269: 1225).

However, in Illinois—home to the AMA—efforts to enforce these ethical standards recently suffered two major legislative setbacks. The first occurred in March, when Gov Jim Edgar

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