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The time has come for us to hang the convicted in the Nirbhaya rape case. At this time, it is also important to discuss the involvement of doctors in the process. The World Medical Association (WMA) provides ethical guidance to physicians through its Declarations, Resolutions and Statements. The same is adopted by CMAAO Asian Countries including Indian Medical Association.
WMA first adopted its resolution on physician participation in capital punishment in 1981, which then amended in 2000 and 2008. The revised Declaration of Geneva was adopted by the World Medical Association General Assembly on October 14, 2017, in Chicago.
There is a universal agreement that physicians must not participate in executions as it is incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. The use of a physician’s knowledge and clinical skill for purposes other than promoting health wellbeing and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine. The WMA Declaration of Geneva states: “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life”, and “I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat.” As citizens, physicians have the right to form views about capital punishment based on their individual moral beliefs. As members of the medical profession, they must uphold the prohibition against participation in capital punishment be scrapped.
In a letter to the then MCI president, when I was the National President in 2017 of IMA, I wrote, “the presence of physicians at the time of execution was a violation of medical ethics”. I also said that IMA holds the view that no doctor should be present during the process of execution. This is a violation of medical ethics and therefore amounts to professional misconduct. I also wrote “that the amended WMA Declaration of Geneva The Physicians Pledge was adopted by the WMA General Assembly on October 14, 2017, in Chicago. All the policies and resolutions of the WMA are accepted by member National Medical Associations, making India a signatory to all the policies and resolutions adopted by the body (WMA). We, therefore, request you to implement the WMA Resolution on physicians participation in Capital Punishment as a guideline for doctors in the country”.
There is no law which mandates the presence of a doctor at the time of capital punishment. Such requirements are only present in the Jail manual. Doctors can be called to testify death but cannot asked to testify their fitness or be present at the site of executions.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA