20140707 – Doctors Participating in Executions

For Immediate Release
Contact: RJ Crayton

When Headlines and Fiction Meet: Doctors Participating in Executions

The execution gone wrong of an Oklahoma man this spring has led some to suggest doctors become involved in executions. The man appeared to be writhing in pain after the lethal injection, rather than dying humanely. While some saw the execution as a reason to involve doctors in the process, most medical ethics rules, including those of the American Medical Association, oppose involving doctors in executions.

However in fiction, doctors are already helping out in executions. In the novel Life First, a 2014 Readers’ Choice nominee and BRAG Medallion winner, doctors are an integral part of the execution.

“In Life First, a number of ethical issues are touched on. The first is the main character’s thread, about whether the government can force you to give up your kidney, or other organs, against your will,” says RJ Crayton, author of Life First. “The second issue we have is doctors essentially executing patients.”

The novel is set in the future after pandemics have wiped out much of the population. The surviving society values life above all else. In that vein, prisons have been replaced by holding facilities, where inmates’ body parts are used to help others in society.

“In the book, they call it ‘death by giving life,’” Crayton says. “So, inmates stay in holding facilities until they are found to be a match for a person who needs organs you can’t get through live donation, such as a heart, then doctors come in and transplant the inmates’ organ to the needy person. It’s an execution that can only take place if you have a doctor involved. You can’t really hire a guard or some unskilled worker to go in and perform a heart transplant.”

So, doctors in a future such as this, don’t have the same ethical standards doctors today practice under. “The book is certainly about a different time, one when people have been brought to the brink of extinction and their ideas of what’s appropriate in saving lives is different from the current standards,” Crayton said. “I think it’s unlikely current medical ethicists would change their stance on doctors being involved in executions.”

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RJ Crayton is author of the Life First book series, which includes Life First and Second Life. Prior to becoming a novelist, Crayton was a reporter for the Kansas City Star and later edited the trade publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. Presently Crayton is a monthly contributor to the Indies Unlimited blog and a regular contributor to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies blog. When she’s not writing, Crayton spends her time being a ninja mom (stealthy and ultra cool, like moms should be) to her son and daughter. You can find out more about her at http://rjcrayton.com.

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