We are appreciative of the insightful comments by Wirt et al. They point out the large number of respondents to our survey who believed that the death penalty had a significant deterrent effect on the murder rate.1 They also indicate that in order to justify their participation in lethal injections, physicians should know the current scientific evidence involving the death penalty and its effect on the murder rate. While such knowledge is important, we believe that those who condone physician involvement in the death penalty will need to provide a cogent ethical argument for why such participation should be allowed. In our view, as Wirt et al point out, there is no evidence that the death penalty negatively affects the murder rate. In addition, even if capital punishment were a deterrent against violent crime, it still would not justify physician involvement in the process.
Farber NJ, Davis EB, Weiner J, Jordan J, Boyer EG, Ubel PA. Physicians' Attitudes About Involvement in Lethal Injection for Capital Punishment—Reply. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(10):1354. doi: