Capital Punishment and Nurses’ Participation in Capital Punishment
ANA Position Statement
Status: Revised Position Statement
Written by: ANA Center for Ethics and Human Rights
Adopted by: ANA Board of Directors
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 directly or 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.