Michael Morales is a convicted rapist and killer who was sentenced to death by lethal injection in the state of CA. He was supposed to be executed on Tuesday the 21st at 12:01, but U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel put a stay on his execution until he could be certain that Mr. Morales would not feel any pain in the process. The accepted solution to this requirement was to have a registered anesthesiologist present who could confirm that Mr. Morales was completely unconscious and unable to feel any pain prior to the lethal injection. Two anesthesiologists accepted the responsibility, but later backed out. Why? Because some are arguing that a doctor participating in an execution is not ethically proper. As a result Mr. Morales has yet to be executed.

The American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists are three of several groups that have raised ethical condemnations of the plan. The latter organization argues against the plan on the premise that “Physicians are healers, not executioners. The doctor-patient relationship depends upon the inviolate principle that a doctor uses his or her medical expertise only for the benefit of patients.”

I am glad to see some ethical awareness in the medical community, but I am baffled how selective this ethical sensitivity is. For over 30 years physicians have been the main providers of abortions in this country, and in Oregon physicians are involved in the euthanizing of the terminally ill. How is it that participating in these executions is ethically acceptable, but participating in the execution of a man guilty of gross moral crimes against humanity is not? Where is the consistency?