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Decision Delayed On Physician Participation At State Executions

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Medical Board's official position on doctors' participation in executions has been delayed until Friday.

A committee of the medical board on Wednesday recommended a policy that "physician participation in capital punishment is a departure from the ethics of the medical profession within the meaning" of state statutes.

However, the committee said it also recognizes that state law requires a physician to be present during executions. Physicians who observe an execution should not be disciplined, the committee said.

Participation is against the ethical guidelines of the American Medical Association, who equate the presence of a doctor with participation.

The issue arose after physicians wrote the board earlier this year seeking guidance because a condemned prisoner's lawyers asked that an anesthesiolgist be present at his execution. The prison system decided, with court approval, to use instead a machine to monitor the man's consciousness.

In addition, a doctor and a nurse are present during executions in a room near the execution chamber where they watch heart and consciousness monitors.

The board is expected to approve a policy that prohibits doctors from taking an active role in the procedure.

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