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Physician: Lethal Injection Not Considered Medical Procedure

Posted May 21, 2007

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution
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— A doctor testified before a judge at a hearing Monday that the use of lethal injection in executions is not a medical procedure.

The hearing concerns whether attorneys for death row inmates were unfairly denied access to state leaders when they approved a lethal injection protocol.

Dr. Philip Boysen, a professor of anesthesiology of the UNC School of Medicine, said lethal injection could lead to paralysis.

"It might end up paralyzing somebody who actually isn't fully anesthetized or unconscious and we are aware," Boysen said. "The awareness would take two forms. One, which would be excruciating, is the inability to breathe, which nobody would know but the person who suffered."

Boysen's testimony would support the state, which is suing the North Carolina medical board. The board adopted a policy that doctors cannot take part in executions because it violates their medical ethics.

Boysen testified before Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison as defense attorneys for several death row inmates argued against the state's death penalty procedure. The lawyers said the Council of State -- made up of Gov. Mike Easley and nine statewide elected officials -- didn't follow an appropriate process when it approved a new execution protocol in February.

Attempting to find a compromise, correction officials altered the state's so-called execution protocol. But a Wake County judge, citing a law passed in 1919, ruled the Council of State must approve such a change.

The council did so, but that wasn't enough to fully smooth over the legal fallout of the medical board's ruling.

The state Attorney General's Office sued the board in March after trying and failing to reach a compromise that would allow executions to continue. The lawsuit is still pending.

The judge has 45 days from the end of the hearing to make a decision. If the matter is heard before the Council of State, the council may consider the judge's ruling, but they do not have to abide by it.

In the meantime, executions remain on hold in North Carolina until the courts can clear up the conflicts.


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  • yacs May 22, 2007

    sick of thugs, I understand what you're saying. Couey is evil and twisted, and to call him an animal would be insulting to animals. Jessica was a sweet, innocent little girl who was brutally and undeservedly victimized, and the image brings pain to me, too. Her family is in more pain than most people can imagine, but only they can say whether Couey's death would satisfy them or make them feel any better. If it were me, the pain wouldn't stop with the perp's execution, but that's just me. Could be different for Jessica's family and I don't have a right to say otherwise.

    I am not defending the murderers and rapists out there; Couey deserves the worst kind of death and I won't argue. Unfortunately, it won't change what happened to Jessica. It may or may not satisfy his family, but it will satisfy all of the strangers with a fixed notion of justice and a queasy appetite for blood. State-sponsored killing is still killing.

  • yacs May 22, 2007

    cuzinlukey: "you are correct sir, You will always be against the death penalty until someone close to you is raped, murdered, or victimized in some other brutal manner."

    Not so. Sorry to tell you this, but that's already happened in my immediate family. Executing the perp will not bring back the victim.

  • mvnull May 21, 2007

    "you are correct sir, You will always be against the death penalty until someone close to you is raped, murdered, or victimized in some other brutal manner." That moral relativism. I reject it. I realize we all have faults and I may come up short. I have been to memorial services for murdered Friends where the family spoke out against capital punishment for the murderer. If that were to happen in my family, I hope to be as strong in faith.

  • sick of thugs 2 May 21, 2007

    You are correct sir: You said "Anyway, it's the death thing that bothers me. Feels too much like playing God. My opposition is moral, not political."

    Well the death thing bothers me too. But not for the same reasons. It bothers me that there are people out there that murder for reasons beyond me. They are not doing it for a just cause. They are doing it for money and personal gain. It is not moral or right. There is one way and one way only to possibly satisfy justice in this situation. Death. It is not cruel, unusual or unjust. It is the answer to justice for the victim and the victims families. Just ask Jessica Lunsford's father. It pains me to think of her holding her stuffed animal suffocating inside a trashbag buried alive after being brutally raped. John Couey deserves the punishment that he recieved and then some. If I had it my way I would personally do it my own way.

  • Lukey May 21, 2007

    you are correct sir, You will always be against the death penalty until someone close to you is raped, murdered, or victimized in some other brutal manner.

  • Lukey May 21, 2007

    songdemon, PS did you know that unless an inmate "volunteers" to work nothing can be done to force him to. You see being locked up and out of society is the only punishment that can be applied to an inmate who doesn't break any rules. Now for the death penalty. You will never be for it if one of your family is sentenced to die. Solme will never be for it until one of their families are victimized. Some say yes and some say no. I say maybe so.

  • yacs May 21, 2007

    wlfpak03, as far as the 8th Amendment, I'd agree with you on some interpretations of "cruel and unusual." I'm against torture, but some of the other interpretations are pretty ridiculous. For example, degradation to human dignity is one of the means of determining cruel and unusual, but for a murderer or predatory rapist, dignity should go right out the window.

  • yacs May 21, 2007

    Sorry, ran out of space. I like the counter that WRAL added recently.

    Anyway, it's the death thing that bothers me. Feels too much like playing God. My opposition is moral, not political. I'm a pacifist and anti-capital punishment, but I'm also against abortion. Bottom line, I don't like the idea of killing anyone.

    That said, I know there are times when we have to. I already said I have no problem with self-defense. I also have no problem with LEOs killing to save someone else. War is necessary sometimes, too -- if the other party is an aggressor, sometimes we have no choice. Even with abortion, it can be necessary to save the mother. It's never black and white.

    In the case you described, I'd rather see exile than death, but that'll never happen, either. So, if someone will clearly remain a threat, even in jail, then I could see their execution as "self-defense" on the part of society and prison guards. But killing just doesn't sit well with me. Thanks for asking.

  • Lukey May 21, 2007

    songdemon, there is no such thing as a 12-16 hour day in prison. Have a look here. There are 90 Prisons in NC that have "road squads." Each one has a bus, trailer, tools, portalet, clean water to wash hands and here's how the operate. Breakfast at 7:00, load up for work at 9:00 AM, leave units app 9:45 AM, arrive at work station (sometimes 50 mi. away) 10:30 AM, quit for lunch break @ 12:00 noon, work again from 1:00-3:00 PM Load up for drive to unit. Notiace the work day consists of 3.5 hours per crew. Bus costs $30,000, if crew has 9 or more inmates three officers are required, $23,000 + benefits each about $45,000 total, trailer and tools $10,000 and all this for each unit that has a road squad. I know this is nowhere near the cost of keeping them in jail but all inmate road work is just for "eye salve" and nothing more. Next time you see on of these crews working along the road don't feel good about it its costing you through the nose.

  • yacs May 21, 2007

    sick of thugs: "How about a compromise on the death penalty. Only and I mean ONLY in cases of first degree murder where there is DNA evidence or some other type of solid non-deniable incriminatig evidence (ie. video or photo) would the death penalty be absolute. I think this is a reasonable solution and compromise. What do you think?"

    Well, first, thanks for asking. Sounds like you're genuinely interested in hearing a dissenting opinion, which is cool by me. Especially when you don't need my compromise, since the death penalty is already in place and I'm not stopping it.

    As for an answer, I just don't know. I agree that thugs like that do not retain any rights and that punishment should be swift, severe and more or less permanent. Believe me, I'm not an advocate of convicts' rights, especially when their guilt has been proven absolutely. (And btw, I appreciate the efforts of you and other LEOs to put them away.)

    The only problem I have is with death. To be continued...