Science for The People: Science & the Death Penalty

sftpThis week, Science for The People looks at the science of the ultimate criminal punishment. Pharmacologist and science writer David Kroll discusses the chemistry of the drugs used in lethal injections. They talk to law professor Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, about the rates of false convictions in death penalty cases. And they speak to Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist Dr. James Harris about the complex issues at the intersection of capital punishment and intellectual disability.

Thinking about Angelina

Writing in Forbes, David Kroll has a very thoughtful take on Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she had a preventative double mastectomy after learning that she was at exceptionally high risk for developing breast cancer. While taking nothing away from Jolie’s bravery in writing about her choice, Kroll raises concerns about health care access, gene patents, “certainty” in medicine, and the influence of celebrity (which could be both positive and negative in this case):

On the one hand, I am stunned by the bravery of this high-profile woman to not only undergo such a transformative surgery and then write about it in the nation’s newspaper of record less than three weeks later…On the other hand, I do worry that the ensuing publicity surrounding her announcement might evoke some magnitude of panic in women with breast cancer, particularly those who don’t have BRCA1/2 gene mutations or cannot afford to have the testing done…My primary concern is that some women with breast cancer may think that they are not being aggressive enough with their current treatment plan. – David Kroll

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