[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
August 6, 1982

Strange bedfellows: death penalty and medicine

JAMA. 1982;248(5):518-519. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330050008005

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


A group of Boston physicians are calling on their colleagues across the country to join them in opposing the death penalty as the wrong solution to a complex problem.

"The medical profession does not keep itself away from social problems like the plague or typhoid," said psychiatrist Michael Nelson, MD. He urged physicians to consider criminal homicide and capital punishment as sociomedical issues that "deserve the best medical thinking."

Nelson, who helped organize Massachusetts Physicians Against the Death Penalty in February and who would like to take it nationwide, spoke at a symposium on physicians and the death penalty held in conjunction with the Harvard Medical School commencement in June.

Physician concern about the death penalty was triggered in 1977 when Oklahoma and Texas adopted a new "medical" method of execution—death by lethal injection. Idaho and New Mexico soon followed suit, and in Washington, the condemned may choose between lethal