Read the 2010 NAEMT position
Emmet vs. Johnson brief (PDF)
- “So Long as They Die” (PDF) by Human Rights Watch
In a statement issued on February 18, 2010, the National Association of EMTs reaffirmed its opposition to EMS participation in capital punishment. “Participation in executions is viewed as contrary to the fundamental goals and ethical obligations of emergency medical services…. EMTs and paramedics should refrain from participation in capital punishment and not take part in assessment, supervision or monitoring of the procedure or the prisoner; procuring, prescribing or preparing medications or solutions; inserting the intravenous catheter; injecting the lethal solution; and/or attending or witnessing the execution as an EMT or paramedic.” A number of states, including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana, have EMT-Bs or paramedics on their execution teams, according to the Human Rights Watch.
In the wake of the NAEMT’s statement, the Richmond EMS Examiner set out to determine what impact the statement has on Virginia’s EMS providers. Many states are open about their execution protocols; Virginia is not one of them. An internet search reveals very little. The Code of Virginia § 53.1-234 is vague: “The Director, or the assistants appointed by him, shall…cause the prisoner under sentence of death to be electrocuted or injected with a lethal substance, until he is dead.” In fact, the only specific information about Virginia’s execution protocol that is publicly available comes from the case of Emmet v. Johnson. Christopher Emmett, a death row inmate, challenged Virginia’s lethal injection procedure, saying that it violated his Eighth Amendment Right. Virginia Department of Corrections’ Divisional Operating Procedure (DOP) 426, the execution protocol, is subject to a protective order according to a footnote in the Emmet v. Johnson brief. However, some portions were included or paraphrased in the brief.
DOP 426 mandates that members of the IV team must “have received training as military corpsmen, cardiac emergency technicians (the certification phased out in favor of the EMT-I), or should receive on-the-job training from a physician in receiving and dispensing medications, to include starting and administering IV fluids.” As of the 2008, the IV team consisted “of an individual with 20 years of medical service and EMT training, and a certified phlebotomist” (Emmet v. Johnson 10). So it is clear that EMS providers could be involved in executions, but it is not clear if any certified EMS providers do or did participate. Having “EMT training” does not mean that the individual on the IV team in 2008 was actually certified as an EMT.
In a voicemail, Larry Traylor, the Public Information officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections, stated that Virginia does not discuss its execution protocols by order of the Attorney General. He offered to submit any questions via email to the Attorney General for permission to answer. The Richmond EMS Examiner sent an email to Mr. Traylor on March 1, 2010 asking for confirmation that certified EMS providers participate in executions but the email has not been answered yet.
However, since Virginia EMS providers have the potential to be on an execution team, the NAEMT’s statement directly impacts them. The Richmond EMS Examiner spoke with several EMTs and paramedics off the record about the NAEMT statement and their opinions were mixed. One pro-death penalty provider readily admitted that she would volunteer for the team regardless of the NAEMT opinion. The other pro-death penalty provider and the anti-death penalty providers were totally against EMS participation and agree with the NAEMT. It is impossible to know how any EMS providers that may be on the IV team feel about the NAEMT statement because Virginia does not release any information that may be used to identify those individuals.
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