Articles with Statements from Doctors

Executions Halted as Doctors Balk

Pauline Vu, (March 21, 2007)

Until recently, the extent of physician participation had been unclear to the public. According to a 2005 article in The Journal of Legal Medicine, 17 states require physician participation in executions. The extent of participation, however, is unclear. While Colorado and Georgia state that physicians must participate “to the extent necessary,” most of the states call for doctors to declare death or simply be present - with other potential duties unmentioned.

An additional 18 states allow for the participation of doctors, sometimes by not explicitly prohibiting them, according to the article. Missouri’s execution protocols, for example, don’t mention medical personnel, but the recent court case revealed that a doctor had been filling syringes with anesthetic.

Only two states Illinois and Kentucky - forbid doctors from participating in or attending executions.

States are confronting the physician dilemma in a variety of ways. Georgia and Oklahoma recently enacted laws that forbid state medical boards from punishing medical workers who participate in executions.

American Society of Anesthesiologists Statement on Sodium Thiopental’s Removal from the Market (Jan. 2011)

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and its members are extremely troubled to learn that the anesthetic drug, sodium thiopental (Pentothal®), will no longer be available to patients in the U.S. or any other country due to the unfortunate circumstances in Italy that led the sole manufacturer, Hospira, to cease production of the drug.

Sodium thiopental is an important and medically necessary anesthetic agent that has been used for years to induce anesthesia in patients undergoing surgical procedures. Although its use has decreased in recent years due to the introduction of newer medications, such as propofol, sodium thiopental is still considered a first-line anesthetic in many cases including those involving geriatric, neurologic, cardiovascular and obstetric patients, for whom the side effects of other medications could lead to serious complications.

The ASA certainly does not condone the use of sodium thiopental for capital punishment, but we also do not condone using the issue as the basis to place undue burdens on the distribution of this critical drug to the United States. It is an unfortunate irony that many more lives will be lost or put in jeopardy as a result of not having the drug available for its legitimate medical use.

ASA has been working diligently in recent years to address the increasing problem of drug shortages that jeopardize patient safety. In November, ASA co-sponsored a Drug Shortage Summit with our coalition partners in an attempt to develop solutions to address these ongoing issues. Today’s announcement underscores the need to develop those solutions, such as redundancies within the manufacturing and distribution system, to ensure that our patients have the necessary drugs available when they are needed. ASA will continue its efforts to work with the federal government and its coalition partners to address this important patient safety issue.


Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 44,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists Web site at

(source: American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA))