Forcible Treatment of Prisoners Facing Execution

Forcible Treatment of Prisoners Facing Execution



Forcible Treatment of Prisoners Facing Execution

            The passage highlights the controversy surrounding execution and the plea of insanity. It also highlights the role of medicine in corrections. The accused person was a death row prisoner and the court ruled that the state could force him to take medication. The case highlights the court’s decision to involve medicine and healthcare in an execution case. It ruled that it was okay for a prisoner to take medication that would contribute to making the prisoners’ health better so that he would be executed. The role of medication is one of the main arguments in a passage. Doctors have the responsibility to heal their patients. They take an oath to do so. However, as the passage suggests, it is important to consider the reason for treating patients. The patient in question was forced to take medication so that he could face his punishment.

            Reasonable people know the consequences for their actions. They commit crime knowing the punishments they will receive. Therefore, they should be willing to face whatever comes their way. Doctors have the responsibility to do the best for their patients. It would be unethical for a doctor to refuse to treat the patient. They should be willing to treat their patients regardless of their situation because it is the right thing to do. However, the courts have a responsibility as well. They should be aware of their position and the responsibility they have within the community. Courts are responsible for ensuring adherence to the law. The decisions made in the courts can become basis for future laws. They should consider the impact that the laws will have in present and future legislation.

            Courts cannot use the power they have to force people to take action and make decisions that will lead to death. They should respect people’s constitutional rights and freedoms. Violating a prisoner’s rights is a form of discrimination. The eighth amendment of the constitution bans against punishment that is cruel and unusual. Executing an insane prisoner falls under this category (Gogna, 2012). Prisons are meant to deny people of their liberty and to rehabilitate them. Denying them essential healthcare is a form of additional punishment that the courts or healthcare professionals do not have the permission to issue (Birmingham et al., 2005). The passage is different, in that the court decision required the patient to take treatment. However, it is important to consider the consequences of that decision as well.

            Prisoners have rights but they also have limitations. They are aware that the actions they did that contributed to them being in prison denied them the chance to make many decisions concerning their lives. In addition, as noted, it is important to consider the consequences of the decisions made. The prisoner may continue endangering the lives of other people if he does not take the required treatment. Moreover, his condition can worsen if he refuses to take medication. Psychiatric conditions usually get worse if left untreated. Essentially, the most important factor to consider ethically is to do the right thing. This means using medicine to treat the patient for his condition.

            For the doctor, the intention of the treatment is to alleviate pain and to cure. Therefore, he may not consider his actions as aiding in the execution (Zonana, 2003). Those who choose to see the action of forcible treatment as aiding in execution neglect the first responsibility of the doctor to the patient. In addition, it is important to consider the possibility that the prisoner might be taking advantage of the law to avoid facing his punishments. This should be an important factor to consider, especially light of the fact that the prisoner is serving a sentence for capital murder.


Birmingham, L., Wilson, S., & Adshead, G. (2005). Prison medicine: Ethics and equivalence. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 188(1), 4-6

Gogna, A. (2012). Competency to execute: Unjustified forcible medication regimes and the insanity defense. Retrieved from

Zonana, V. H. (2003). Competency to be executed and forced medication: Singleton v. Norris. The Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 31, 372-376

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