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AMA Members Seek Death Penalty Halt

Updated:
CHICAGO (AP) — With new medical technology reshaping the debate over capital punishment, a group of public health physicians hopes the American Medical Association will seek a national moratorium on executions.

The American Association of Public Health Physicians argues all executions should be stopped until questions about the death penalty system — including the availability of DNA evidence — are resolved.

``The possibility exists that in several states innocent individuals may be executed because medical technology will not be made available in time to prevent their death,'' says a resolution by the association.

The resolution was prepared for the policy-making arm of the AMA, the nation's largest doctors group. On Monday, it was expected to be considered by a committee, which could refer it to the 550 AMA delegates for a vote later this week during its annual meeting.

The AMA has addressed other social issues in recent years, including coming out against physician-assisted suicide and tobacco use. Its own code of medical ethics states that ``a physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution.''

Capital punishment has come under increased scrutiny, particularly in Texas, which has executed more people than any other state, and in Illinois, where Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions.

Ryan's decision earlier this year came in light of the 13 death row inmates who were cleared and released since the state restored capital punishment in 1977.

The resolution asks the AMA to express support for Ryan's moratorium and those proposed by other legislators, and to recommend the nationwide halt to the National Governor's Association.

Earlier this month, Texas Gov. George W. Bush granted a 30-day reprieve in a scheduled execution to allow for DNA tests.

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported that dozens of Texas inmates have been executed during Bush's administration despite defenses marred by unreliable evidence, disbarred or suspended defense attorneys and questionable psychiatric testimony.

Bush defended his record, saying Texas has ``adequately answered innocence or guilt'' in its death penalty cases.

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On the Net:

American Association of Public Health Physicians: http://www.aaphp.org

American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org
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