Doctors and medical students commended UK government decisions to ban the export of drugs used in executions.
The meeting reaffirmed the BMA’s long-standing opposition to capital punishment by supporting a movement for a ‘pharmaceutical Hippocratic oath’.
Doctors agreed that the BMA and other relevant bodies should work with international organisations such as the World Medical Association and the World Health Organisation to secure a world-wide ban on the export and use of pharmaceuticals for the purpose of execution.
London foundation doctor 2 Tim Crocker-Buqué said: ‘Death by lethal injection amounts to torture.’
He said the use of sodium thiopental had been proven to cause unacceptable suffering during executions, for example, and the penal systems of some countries tended to stockpile propofol, which could lead to a shortage for medical use.
Dr Crocker-Buqué added: ‘Medicines used to save or extend people’s lives should not be used to kill people.’
He said BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson had been working with the Reprieve lobby group to implement a pharmaceutical Hippocratic oath.
Capital punishment 'barbaric'
Yorkshirae GP Ansar Hayat argued that lethal injection was the ‘least painful’ method, pointing out that some countries had harsher systems. ‘This is simply going to increase suffering,’ he said. ‘We should continue to influence governments to abolish capital punishment.’
But Newcastle medical student Karin Purshouse said capital punishment was barbaric and companies should not profit from it.
The meeting also heard an impassioned plea from London GP Martin Harris, who described how he tried to prevent one of his former patients from being executed in China three years ago. He said he contacted the Foreign Office and tried to organise representation for the patient but ‘unfortunately, his execution proceeded’.
London GP John Chisholm said: ‘The right to life is the most important human right.’
Dr Chisholm said in November 2010 the UK had banned the export of drugs used in executions to the USA and, in September 2011, banned such exports to European countries.