Washington’s former medical director for the Department of Corrections, Dr. Marc Stern, recently resigned from his post because of an ethichal conflict with his role in supervising those who carried out executions. For example, the prison’s medical director, a nurse, attended at least 8 practice sessions with the four-member lethal-injection team, including some held on the kitchen countertop at a team member’s home. As he left his position on the eve of a scheduled execution, Stern formally accused the Department of Corrections of illegally obtaining the lethal-injection drugs and voiced concerns over his medical staff’s required participation in executions. As head doctor for the state’s prisons, he was surprised to be told he had to ensure the lethal injection table was in working order before each execution. “This is ludicrous,” Stern remembers telling his boss. “I can’t do this. I won’t do this. I’m not allowed to do this.” The American Medical Association (AMA) admonishes physicians from any direct role with lethal injections, including “an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned.” Stern saw the AMA code as clear cut. This put him into an ethical bind since the fact that he was ultimately accountable for all medical procedures in the prisons meant he was also responsible for the lethal injection medical procedures. “If a nurse put in an IV and missed, and it turned out the chain of training was bad, that’s my responsibility,” Stern said. Since his resignation, a doctor who assumed some of his duties has lodged similar objections about the involvement of Department of Corrections staff in the procedures. Washington’s scheduled executions are temporarily on hold.

(J. Martin, “State’s top prisons doctor quit over execution policy,” The Seattle Times, June 23, 2009). See Lethal Injection.