Caring to Death: Health Care Professionals, Foucault, and Capital Punishment

Dave Holmes, University of Ottawa
Cary Federman, Duquesne University

The purpose of this paper is to describe the role of health care professionals in the capital punishment process. We intend to discuss the relationship between the protocol of capital punishment in the U.S. and the use of health care professionals to carry out that task. For some time, the operation of the medical sciences in prisons has been part of a disciplinary strategy and an integral part of the prison's power relationship with condemned inmates. We discuss these topics with specific reference to the works of Michel Foucault, focusing on the role of power and resistance in capital punishment. Moreover, we address the role of state laws that declare that using health care professionals to carry out executions is not the practice of medicine.

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Updated 05/20/2006