The purpose of this position statement is twofold. First, to address the role of nurses in capital punishment. Second, to express the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) overall views on capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty. Registered nurses, along with other health care professionals, continue to be called upon to participate in capital punishment, including the use of lethal injection. Since 1983, ANA has clearly held that nurses should not assume any role in the capital punishment of a prisoner. This position statement now extends to opposing capital punishment.
Statement of ANA Position
The American Nurses Association (ANA) opposes both capital punishment and nurse participation in capital punishment. Participation in executions, either directlyor indirectly, is viewed as contrary to the fundamental goals and ethical traditions of the nursing profession. This position is in alignment with the International Council of Nurses’ (ICN, 2012) position that “considers the death penalty to be cruel, inhuman and unacceptable. . .” (p. 2).
The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (Code) (ANA, 2015) brings to the forefront the importance of the nursing profession’s taking a stance against any action that is contrary to the respect for human dignity of all individuals. Since ANA represents individual nurses, the professional organization must communicate to the public the values nurses consider central to the nursing profession (Code, Interpretive Statement 9.1). Within the Code provisions 8 and 9 (ANA, 2015), the principles of social justice speak to the importance of the nursing profession’s taking a stance against the death penalty, due to the preponderance of evidence against the fairness and effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent.
In keeping with the nursing profession’s commitment to caring;the preservation of human dignity and rights; the ethical principles of justice,nonmaleficence, beneficence and fidelity; and the preservation of trust that society accords the nursing profession; and in recognition of social inequalities within the judicial, criminal and penal systems; ANA recommends that:
- Nurses abide by the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements and the Correctional
- Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, which prohibit nurses from assuming any role in the
- capital punishment of a prisoner.
- Nurses strive to preserve the human dignity of prisoners regardless of the nature of the crimes they have committed.
- Nurses abide by the social contract to facilitate healing and refuse to participate in capital punishment.
- Nurses act to protect, promote, and restore the health of prisoners and provide comfort care at the end of life, if requested, including pain control, anxiety relief or procuring the services of a chaplain or spiritual advisor.
- Nurses who are invited to witness an execution do not represent themselves as a nurse nor assume any nursing role in that execution.
- Nurses help colleagues balance the moral burdens with professional ethics when specific death penalty cases cause moral turmoil.
- Nurse administrators provide a work environment that allows nurses to abide by the recommendations of the American Correctional Health Services Association, National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and ANA.
- Nurses continue to be involved in national and international dialogue on political, scientific, ethical, legal, social, and economic perspectives leading to legislation that would abolish the death penalty.
- Nurses as individuals and as a professional community maintain awareness that any nurse participation could contribute to the public’s acceptance of the death penalty, and their nonparticipation may, in fact, contribute to rejection of the death penalty.
- Nurse educators include and emphasize the knowledge and skills needed to act upon the above recommendations.
➤ Click here to read/download the full statement (pdf)
Source: American Nurses Association, ANA Center for Ethics and Human Rights, ANA Board of Directors, 2016
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