Resolutions Against the Death Penalty

Over the last 40 years many professional associations have taken a stand against the death penalty. This section provides an overview of some of the most important resolutions and policies.

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 3 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. This article is what prompts many human rights experts to claim that the death penalty goes against human rights.

With this article in mind as well as article 5 regarding the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Amnesty International has worked against the death penalty for more than 40 years. The Danish medical group against the Death Penalty is a part of this important work.

World Medical Association

The World medical Association, WMA has passed a number of resolutions and policy statements against capital punishment. The first was adopted in 1981 and stated that “it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions”.

WMA reaffirmed the former resolution on prohibition of physician participating in capital punishment in 2012, adding that “Physicians will not facilitate the importation or prescription of drugs for execution”.

Psychiatric declarations and statements

Also the psychiatric doctors have taken a stand on the participation of psychiatrists in legal proceedings where capital punishment may be the result. In this detailed statement the Royal College of Psychiatrists, England, account for the ethics that are relevant when considering psychiatry in relation to the death penalty in a range of different situations, including the psychiatrist’s role in legal proceedings and post-sentencing therapy.

The Madrid Declaration, adopted by the World Psychiatric Association in 1996, states that “Under no circumstances should psychiatrists participate in legally authorized executions nor participate in assessments of competency to be executed.”

The case of organ transplants from executed prisoners

WMA has taken a stand against using organs from executed prisoners in a resolution dating year 2000, stating that prisoners “organs and tissues must not be used for transplantation except for members of their immediate family”.

The ethics committee of the Transplantation Society, an NGO that serves as an international forum for the world-wide advancement of organ transplantation, prohibits its members from being involved in transplanting organs from executed prisoners.

Resolutions from Other Associations

In 2004 the Council of Nordic Medical Associations adopted a resolution stating that “the death penalty is an unacceptable form of punishment as it violates the fundamental human right to life”.

The British Medical Association has adopted policies opposing the involvement of doctors in the implementation of the death penalty, opposing the involvement of doctors in torture worldwide, etc. In this document you can find a sum-up of the different policies.