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YOUR VIEW: Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley vowed to do no harm, including on death penalty

Published: Sunday, April 10, 2011, 5:37 AM
By Letters from our readers The Birmingham News

I thought that as a physician, Gov. Robert Bentley would view capital punishment differently than previous governors. Surely, as a physician, he would view the death penalty as an inhumane act, or at least as an uncertain one, I thought.

Bentley and I were friends in premed at the University of Alabama, and the deep impressions I recall from those days were his obvious kindness, religious convictions and humility. I knew he would be a good doctor.

And when I learned he was running for governor, I supported him wholeheartedly.

Bentley is going to be a great governor, I'm sure of that. Facing the state's financial crisis hard-nosed and objectively was a great start; likewise, his leadership in ethics reform. He clearly is principled and thoughtful in all he does, just as a good physician is in the care of his patients.

Unfortunately, his decision not to grant clemency to William G. Boyd, who was executed March 31, made my heart sink. Maybe he was right, and I am wrong, but I don't think so.

In 1968, Bentley took the same oath I took the previous year -- to do no harm. No doubt, his experience practicing medicine as a dermatologist was different than mine as an oncologist. Maybe I saw too many people die, too many lives slip through my fingers despite my best efforts. Maybe I saw too much sorrow. Maybe I see life, any life, as more precious than Bentley does, and maybe I understand the teaching of Jesus differently.

For me, the issue is clear and certain.

There are a lot of things we are not sure of in medicine and in life, but when things are dubious, we were taught -- and we promised -- to do no harm.

We are not the same people we were in 1963, or even 10 years ago. Surely, Boyd was not the same person he was in 1987. We still believe in redemption, don't we?

John C. Blythe, M.D.

Alexander City

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