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Unread July 20th, 2004, 01:38 PM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
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Default Re: Criminal Responsibility/Death Penalty

"Doesn't this then follow that the death penalty itself is a crime? Accepting the fact the governments do carry out the death penalty and that laws embedded in their constitutions allow for this, isn't there a question of duality here?"
Without getting into a philosophical discussion, I think the answer is (technically at least) no. "Murder" is a crime; "killing" isn't necessarily a crime." Crimes are defined by the people who make the laws. If a state or country authorized execution under some circumstances (e.g., by the state, after due process, in response to certain murders) then the execution, by definition, doesn't fall into the category of "crime." And one must remember that the law that is relevant is that state's/country's law, and not some other country's laws or views. (That is, a death penalty opponent from, say, the U.K. really can't say an execution done in another country is "illegal" solely because it is illegal in the U.K., no matter how he/she may define it philosophically.)

Some important issues for clinicians, though, have to do with the ethics of practicing in ways that may be counter to their mores. Most major clinical organizations in the U.S. (AMA, both APAs, NASW, etc.) have organization rules about participating in executions, sometimes even indirectly (i.e., within their codes of ethics, which apply to their members but no one else). That concerns many clinicians, no matter what they think about the death penalty in the abstract, when they are asked to do things like evaluate or treat a person on death row, participate in a competency process for such people, or even get involved in trials in which the person may possibly be sentenced to death if found guilty.
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