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The doctor’s job was to help kill his own patients

Columbia, SC–When James Terry Roach “started slitting his wrists after being sentenced as a teenager, Dr Green Neal had been the one who had helped relieve his pain with medication. Now the director tied those familiar arms to the electric chair as the doctor stood nearby,” Chiara Eisner wrote Wednesday for The State in Columbia, SC

Dr Green Neal kept his execution experience secret for 37 years. But in March, the South Carolina Department of Corrections announced it was ready to begin shooting death row inmates with a firing squad – and that a medic would once again be required in the prison. room.

The state’s first executions since 2011 were scheduled to take place on April 29 and May 13, but were temporarily stayed by the SC Supreme Court last week. When they do occur, the death room doctor will again be a doctor currently working for corrections, not someone hired from outside, the agency confirmed.

“Neal has now decided to tell his story. He is only the second doctor in recent history to speak in detail about his enforcement role with the press. . . . “The virtual absence of such first-person accounts has made history ‘very rare and important to read,’ Eisner told Journal-isms on Friday. It was a responsibility she took ‘very seriously’ because that Neal had not told his family members or his patients about this part of his job.

Neal, 76, is a black internal medicine specialist who treats many elderly, low-income people with multiple illnesses. He told Journal-isms by phone Thursday that he decided to speak out because “someone needs to know what people are going through.” Eisner wrote about executions and execution workers.

A graduate of Meharry Medical School, Neal left the fulfillment industry in 1996. After Eisner approached him, he said he checked his journalism and spoke with some of the sources for his stories. He was particularly impressed with “Cut Off,” about a predominantly black ZIP code where limbs were being amputated at an alarming rate. Eisner did not write the story, but helped promote it. About 70% of death row inmates were black while in corrections, Neal said. When Eisner wrote her story, she was sure to include the story behind this statistic: “For black people in South Carolina, the state has long been a dangerous place. Before the abolition of slavery, masters could kill the workers they owned and get away with it After slavery was outlawed, the same thing happened under a different name The state saw more black lynchings per capita than most from other parts of the country.

But Eisner also focused on the ethical dilemma of a doctor who has taken an oath to “do no harm” but is part of the state-sanctioned killing process.

“The silence of his peers is no accident,” wrote the journalist. “Doctors like him are stuck in a seemingly impossible situation: they are required by state protocol to participate in executions even though their profession prohibits them from being involved.

“Across the country, doctors have been ordered to write prescriptions for the drugs used in lethal injections, to insert the needles that carry those drugs into people’s veins and, like Neal, to inspect and declare people dead after killing by other means, such as the electric chair.”Each of these actions is considered unethical by national professional societies. The American Medical Association considers any official participation other than signing of a death certificate as contrary to a doctor’s duty to heal and do no harm. The American College of Correctional Physicians is even stricter. He said that prison doctors should not be involved in any aspect of the execution process.

Neal continues to practice in an office that “could be mistaken for any small house in town”.

During the executions, “As 2,300 volts of electricity shook his patient in the chair, he glued his eyes to the floor,” Eisner wrote. “Only after the nurse’s nod did he approach the body, feel the pulse and listen for a long time through a stethoscope, waiting for the heart to finally stop beating. When the silence in his ears matched the silence in the room, the doctor nodded to the director. He would sign the death certificate. Then, when the sun started to rise, he would go straight home and tell no one what he had done.

His colleagues approached their situations in their own way. “There are other ‘untold’ stories,” Neal told Journal-isms. More decisively, “people are quitting their jobs.”(Photo of electric chair: South Carolina Department of Corrections)

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