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Physician Says He Never Participated in Executions

Posted March 29, 2007

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— A physician who has observed several recent executions said he never helped put any inmates to death, further clouding a dispute between state prison officials and the state's medical profession.

Executions were put on hold in January when the North Carolina Medical Board adopted a policy forbidding physicians to participate in them. Any doctor who violates the policy faces the loss of his or her medical license for breaching the profession's code of ethics.

State law requires a physician be present at all executions to monitor an inmate's vital signs so that the death penalty doesn't violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In a deposition given in a death penalty appeal, Dr. Obi Umesi stated he never directly participated in an execution. Umesi serves as the full-time doctor for Wake County Jail inmates and has been the doctor on duty at a number of recent executions at Raleigh's Central Prison.

In the deposition, he said he was in an adjacent room in the last two executions, watching an EKG monitor for heart activity. He said he occasionally checked another monitor where another medical team member kept track of anesthesia being administered to the inmate.

Umesi couldn't be reached Thursday for comment.

But the statements are stirring up the death-penalty controversy.

"He wasn't asked to interpret the monitors. He wasn't asked to monitor vital signs. Without those things, there can't be adequate assurance that the anesthesia level is sufficient," said attorney Elizabeth Kuniholm, who represents death-row inmate James Campbell.

Kuniholm said the deposition highlights the confusion over the role of a doctor in an execution. In one case, attorneys for the Department of Correction argued a doctor must only be present. In another, they said the doctor is supposed to monitor vital signs.

"Since January, the state's position has been a moving target," she said.

Death penalty supporters said the dispute over doctors is ultimately a smokescreen, a technicality that is blocking a lawful form of punishment. Various Republican lawmakers are backing a bill to strip the medical board of power to discipline doctors who might take part in executions.

"It looks terrible in the minds of people back home and all throughout that our court system is not working and creates more and more problems, just when a few special interest groups try to find a way to circumvent the court system and circumvent justice," said state Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie.


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  • Bob3425 Apr 4, 2007

    This is BS some anti pushing for his way, I think the anti abortion should sue the medical board for not revoking the license of the doctor who performs abortion. While I'm pro-choice, I would donate just for they could cause the NC Medical board to have headaches like their causing for the justice system.

  • Watcher Of Things Apr 2, 2007


    hmmm - so as I see it - I can go and torture and kill a bunch of people and not worry about suffering a painful death?

    .... just go to sleep and NEVER wake up??

    I can get treated that special?

    What is my motivation for NOT killing?

    Free room and board until I die?

    Free medical to keep me healthy?

    Free food, clothing, and a warm place to sleep?

    ..... and why should ANYONE worry about killing? ... especially if you live in the ghetto!

    You will probably see partners you haven't seen in a long time!


  • ecc1 Mar 30, 2007

    tarheel_1980 - You can't hire out of state MDs. My understanding is that MDs can only work in a state they have a license, which is from the state medical board. I think for that MD it would be considered practicing medicine without a license and not really solve the problem.

  • mep Mar 30, 2007

    Ironic, a doctor can not participate in a court ordered execution of a criminal tried by his/her peers, but can actually "perform" an abortion? Whaz up with that?

  • Doctor Dataclerk Mar 30, 2007

    We don't need doctors, if they look like they are suffering during the process give them more gas, more electricity, more lethal drugs......we are trying to kill them. Good grief!

  • tarheel1980 Mar 30, 2007

    Why hasn't the state looked at using out of state or even out of country doctors that don't fall under the same medical society rules? This doesn't seem that hard to solve.

  • Freewill Mar 30, 2007

    They are saying they can't violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. What about the victim's constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment? I do believe that they probable suffered!! Did the killer ask them if they would like one last visit with their family, and what their last meal would like to be and then grant it for them. No two wrong don't make it right, but also what about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I do believe the VICTIM went thru the MOST CRUEL AND UNUSALLY PUNISHMENT!! We all need to pray for a better world and for forgiveness. Not many people want the trueth anymore and don't want to take blame where blame is do. He has and is ready to take his punishment, let it be!!

  • Scare Crow Mar 30, 2007

    Why all the fuss? One bullet is all they need!!!

  • Doctor Dataclerk Mar 30, 2007

    I've got it. Use doctors who's license have already been revoked for malpractice. Since we're trying to kill these guys, we don't need good doctors.

  • WXYZ Mar 30, 2007

    No licensed health care professional should be asked or required to even be present during an execution.