ACLU seeks decertification of execution doctor

With execution dates set in October and November in Missouri, the American Civil Liberties Union wants a professional organization to suspend its certification of a doctor scheduled to participate in the executions.

That doctor has been identified only as “M3,” and the ACLU’s letter to the American Board of Anesthesiology Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., said: “Missouri officials have shielded his identity from the public.”

The Corrections Department on Thursday declined to identify the doctor by name, gender or hometown, noting a state law that says: “A person may not, without the approval of the director of the department of corrections, knowingly disclose the identity of a current or former member of an execution team or disclose a record knowing that it could identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team..”

Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU-Eastern Missouri, said in a Thursday news release: “M3 can either be a board-certified anesthesiologist or an executioner, but he cannot be both.”

The agency’s three-page letter to Dr. J. Jeffrey Andrews, the Anesthesiologists board’s secretary, asks the ABA to “take prompt action to suspend the certification” of the unnamed anesthesiologist who “has participated in, and plans to soon again participate in, Missouri executions.”

The letter, signed by Jeffrey Mittman, the ACLU-EM’s new executive director, noted: “In our view, the anesthesiologist at issue does not meet the professional standing requirements for certification because providing anesthesia for the purpose of causing a patient’s death violates the fundamental duty of a physician to do no harm.”

The association did not comment on the letter for this story.

The ACLU letter reminded the board of a statement in the ABA’s 2013 “Booklet of Information,” which says it “is the ABA’s position that an anesthesiologist should not participate in an execution by lethal injection and that violation of this policy is inconsistent with the Professional Standing criteria required for ABA Certification.”

According to the ACLU letter, that policy also states: “As a consequence, ABA certificates may be revoked if the ABA determines that a (certified anesthesiologist) participates in an execution by lethal injection.”

The Missouri attorney general’s office, which represents the Corrections department in legal disputes, also declined to comment on the ACLU’s letter.

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