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Inmate's Right to Die: Legal and Ethical Considerations in Death Row Volunteering

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: 2013 Pages: 139-150
Jacklyn Schildkraut
Date Published
12 pages
This article discusses the literature about the death penalty across a variety of disciplines.
There is a considerable body of literature about the death penalty across a variety of disciplines. However, a newer body of literature has emerged examining the phenomenon of elected executions, also known as death row volunteering. To date, 138 (nearly 11 percent) of the 1,300 death row executions have come from volunteers. This issue has been particularly controversial due to a number of legal and ethical considerations that have been raised by the scholarly, legal, and public communities. Such issues include a capital defendant's competency to volunteer; ethical and moral dilemmas for capital defense attorneys, the States, and medical and mental health professionals; whether death row volunteering equates to 'State-assisted suicide'; and finally, how these considerations impact the public's support for capital punishment. This paper reviews the existing literature pertaining to death row volunteering through the lenses of these various considerations. Recommendations for future research in this area are also offered. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.