Authorities in the south-central province of Phu Yen have announced that a provincial court acted in accordance with the law when it ordered a doctor and a nurse to assist law enforcement officers in administering a lethal injection last year, Dan Tri reported Thursday.
The Phu Yen Province People’s Committee made the statement after L.C.T, a doctor, and N.N.T, a nurse at Phu Yen General Hospital complained that they had been forced to administer a lethal injection to Nguyen Thanh Khau, 33, who was sentenced to death for murder, child abuse and robbery.
On December 9 last year, Khau, a Phu Yen resident, was taken from a local prison to Dak Lak Province to executed at a correctional facility.
Khau was the first prisoner in Phu Yen to be executed by lethal injection.
The Phu Yen General Hospital assigned the two medical professionals to accompany law enforcement officers to Dak Lak, believing the pair would be in charge of providing medical care to the correctional officers.
Two days later, the doctor and the nurse were told to enter a room, where Khau was strapped to a table.
Five officers stood inside the room and asked the pair to locate a vein on Khau’s arm and administer an injection.
The medical professionals said they were shocked and refused to do so. But the officers said it was their responsibility and they must fulfill it.
So the pair reluctantly did their job.
T. had worked a doctor for four months and said he would never forget the look in the eyes of the death row inmate.
“I was deeply sad. I was trained to save people, not to kill them,” he said.
“If I was told beforehand, I would have refused to go with the law enforcement officers.
“I will be tormented by this for the rest of my life.”
The nurse, T., also said she had never done such a thing before.
Director Nguyen Thanh Truc of Phu Yen General Hospital said he was also surprised upon learning of the staff's task.
He said he had received a note from the provincial Department of Health, requiring the hospital to send a doctor and a nurse to accompany the officers, so he thought those assigned to the task would only have to take care of the officers.
For its part, the department said it gave the pair the assignment based on a request from the provincial court.
On Thursday, the Phu Yen People’s Committee said it was not against the law to require a doctor to locate a vein on a death row inmate and assist with an injection.
It explained that it was actually law enforcement officers who connected a tube containing poison to the needle and pressed the button which pumped the poison into the inmate's body.
Technically, the ruling stated, it was not the doctor who administered the lethal injection.
Vietnam officially abandoned the firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011. However, it was not until last August that the country executed its first prisoner via injection due an EU ban on the manufacturing of the poison.
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