Adversary Forum

Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 91-97

First online:

Professional ethics and professional morality in the assessment of competence for execution

A response to Bonnie
  • Stanley L. BrodskyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Alabama


Four psychological perspectives need to be considered in response to the Richard Bonnie outlook on competence for execution. The first perspective is the degree to which the task itself is ambiguous and thus allows individual clinicians' values to leak through. The second perspective is that prisoners' choices to opt for execution instead of appeal are murky and often irrational. The third perspective is that even rational decisions for execution instead of appeal are often not founded on informed judgments, in part because of the situational influences of living on death row. The fourth perspective is that clinicians' judgments to participate in such legal-psychological activities are not only a matter of individual morality but also part of evolving professional ethics.