The top medical officer for the Department of Corrections in the state of Washington has resigned in order to avoid any participation in the state’s execution process. As the doctor responsible for preparing others to carry out lethal injections, Dr. Marc Stern concluded that his ethical obligations as a physician required that he recuse himself from such actions and that resigning was the only way to fully remove himself from this process. Dr. Stern, who supervised 700 employees around the state, said that the American Medical Association and the Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician involvement in executions, “and they say physicians should not supervise somebody who is involved in executions.”

Washington had scheduled the execution of Darold Stenson in December 2008, but the execution was stayed. The state last carried out an execution in 2001.

(A. Wilson, “Washington prison doctor quits over death penalty,” The Olympian/Seattle Times, Dec. 25, 2008). Executions resumed in the U.S. after the Supreme Court upheld the lethal injection process used in Kentucky in Baze v. Rees in April 2008. Executions remain on hold in some states like California, North Carolina and Maryland, which have not resolved the lethal injection issue. See Lethal Injection.