Participation of Health Care Professionals in Death Penalty: An Empirical Exploration (2018-2019)


During the year 2018, India witnessed expansion of death penalty offences via amendments to Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. While most of the world is moving towards abolishment of death penalty such developments in India are intriguing. Currently Death Penalty is valid in India for crimes of Rape, Murder and Terrorist Activities. Both in India and around the world death penalty which is also referred to as death penalty has been extensively discussed from the point of view of ethics, human rights, and justice to survivors or victims of concerned crimes/offences committed by the perpetrator. Amongst others, participation of health care professionals in death penalty at various stages of justice delivery including execution of a convict has been central to these debates over centuries. Current international codes of ethics, such as, the ethics codes promulgated by international and national bodies of health professionals such as the World Medical Association (WMA) and intergovernmental entities like United Nations generally mandate complete loyalty to patients.  However, literature vindicates the fact that throughout human history, health care professionals did participate in executions and it continues to date in different parts of the world, including India.

Against this backdrop, and in the current context of expanding scope of offences subjected to death penalty, exploring the various questions we have asked earlier is warranted. Ideally speaking, it seems questioning constitutional validity of death penalty itself, in India is warranted. However, in the interim it would be of importance to get insights into health care professionals’ perspectives and attitudes about the death penalty and the role of death penalty within the justice system, various aspects of their participation in death penalty; as also on their role in improving prison standards including for health care in prison. The proposed research is a step towards this goal.


  1. Nikita Surani
  2. Sunita Sheel Bandewar
  3. Dilnaz Boga (Affiliate)
  4. Amita Pitre (Affiliate)


  1. Exploratory qualitative research& Online Survey
  2. Essay competition (2018-19) for IJME’s Young Bioethicists Awards
  3. Round table (Feb 2019, Pune)
    1. Flyer
    2. Program schedule
    3. Round table Video Recordings (Session 1, Session 2, Session 3)

Select Resources

  1. Bansal, R. K. (2005). Ethical challenges for medical professionals in India: Role in death penalty. JPAFMAT, 5, 27-29. Available from: Cited 2018 Dec 31.
  2. Boyd, J.W., Himmelstein, D.U., Lasser, K. et al. (2007). Medical students’ knowledge about the military draft, the Geneva conventions, and military medical ethics. Intl J Health Serv, 37(6), 643–650.
  3. Curran, W.J., Casscells, W. (1980). Sounding Board. The ethics of medical participation in death penalty by intravenous drug injection. N Engl J Med, 302(4), 226-230. [PMID: 7350465].
  4. Emanuel, L. L., Bienen, L. B. (2001). Editorial, Physician Participation in Executions: Time To Eliminate Anonymity Provisions and Protest the Practice. Annals of Internal Medicine, 135(10), 922-924.
  5. Farber, N.J., Aboff, B.M., Weiner, J., Davis, E.B., Boyer, E.G., and Ubel, P.A. (2001). Physicians’ Willingness To Participate in the Process of Lethal Injection for Death penalty. Ann Intern Med. 2001; 135(10), 884-888.
  6. Farber, N., Davis, E.B., Weiner, J., Jordan, J., Boyer, E.G., Ubel, P.A. (2000). Physicians’ Attitudes about Involvement in Lethal Injection for Death penalty. Ann Intern Med. 160(19), 2912-2916.
  7. Gadde, P., Akkaloori, A. (2018). The Revised Declaration of Geneva, 2017, and India’s contradictory legal provisions. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Jan 8,
  8. Gupta, S.C. (2000). Death penalty in India. p. 1
  9. Hood, R. (2019). Death penalty. Retrieved from 
  10. Shields, L., Watson, R., Darbyshire, P. et al. (2016). Nurse participation in legal executions: An ethics round-table discussion. Nursing Ethics, 1-14.
  11. Surendranath, A. and Colleagues. (2018). Death Penalty India Report Summary. National Law University. Available from: Cited 2018 Apr 17.
  12. Suredranath A and colleagues. (2016). Death Penalty India Report Vol. 1. National Law University. Available from:  Cited 2018 Apr 17.
  13. Suredranath, A. and colleagues. (2016). Death Penalty India Report Vol 2. National Law University. Feb 2016.  Available from:  Cited 2018 Apr 17.
  14. Vora, P. (2017). Indian Medical Association asks that doctors be excused from participating in execution of convicts. Available from:   Cited 2018 Nov 6.
  15. World Medical Association. WMA (2008). Resolution on Prohibition of Physician Participation in Death penalty. Adopted by the 210th WMA Council Session, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 2018. [Note: The WMA Resolution on Prohibition of Physician Participation in Death penalty is a minor revision that merges two existing WMA policies, the Resolution on Physician Participation in Death penalty (2008) and the WMA Resolution to Reaffirm WMA’s Prohibition of Physician Participation in Death penalty (2012). As a result of the new merged document, these two policies have been rescinded and archived.]. Available from: Cited 2019 Jan 9.
  16. World Medical Association. (1975). WMA Declaration of Geneva.

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