WMA Resolution on Prohibition of Physician Participation in Capital Punishment

Adopted by the 210th WMA Council Session, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 2018*

There is universal agreement that physicians must not participate in executions because such participation 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.

Therefore, the World Medical Association

AFFIRMS that it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions.

REQUESTS firmly its constituent members to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical.

URGES its constituent members to lobby actively national governments and legislators against any participation of physicians in capital punishment.

*The WMA Resolution on Prohibition of Physician Participation in Capital Punishment is a minor revision that merges two existing WMA policies, the Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment (2008) and the WMA Resolution to Reaffirm WMA’s Prohibition of Physician Participation in Capital Punishment (2012). As a result of the new merged document, these two policies have been rescinded and archived.

Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Drugs for Execution, Execution, Human Rights, Non-Involvement