A ruling by Judge Donald Stephens puts doctors, and the N.C. Medical Board, in a tough spot. It’s worth appealing
A Wake County Superior Court judge now has barred the N.C. Medical Board from disciplining doctors who participate in meting out the death penalty, but fortunately, other court cases will keep the state’s thumb off the plunger of the lethal injection syringe for awhile to come. That should give policymakers and legislators time to adequately debate the wisdom of the state putting people to death, and of the procedures now used. That debate is far from over.
The Wake judge, Donald Stephens, issued his ruling late last week, declaring that the Medical Board, the body that regulates and disciplines physicians in North Carolina, was wrong when it passed a policy saying doctors would commit an ethical breach if they participated in any but the most inactive way during an execution. Violating the policy could result in a doctor losing his license to practice.
The board had allowed a doctor’s mere presence in the execution chamber because state law seems to require it, and also in answer to that point being raised by the state Department of Correction, which is pushing a pro-death penalty agenda despite more and more qualms about its use across the state. But Stephens said that the law was intended to ensure that a doctor would be present at executions to "perform medical tasks."
The issue revolves around assertions by condemned inmates that the lethal injection procedure could become so painful as to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments. (more…)