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New Death Penalty Process Would Keep Doctors Present

A revised death penalty protocol would have doctors monitor inmates for any sign of suffering.

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Death Row, Death Penalty, prisoner
RALEIGH, N.C. — State leaders will spend the weekend considering a death penalty protocol that changes the role of physicians but still appears to clash with the North Carolina Medical Board's rule that says doctors may not participate in executions.

Late Friday afternoon, the Department of Correction released detailed procedures for lethal injection. The revised rules still require a doctor to be present, and they appear to increase the physician's role in an effort to make sure inmates do not suffer as they die.

A judge halted three scheduled executions after the medical board ruled doctors cannot be present at executions because that amounts to participation. The current protocol requires a physician be present, but a nurse and emergency medical technician monitor the inmate's condition.

The new protocol calls for a doctor to monitor the condemned inmate's body functions and notify the warden if it appears the prisoner is suffering. At that point, the execution would be stopped.

The Council of State is expected to vote on the plan Tuesday.

Death-penalty opponents have argued that inmates may suffer pain during lethal injection, but the drug cocktail they are given paralyzes them and makes it impossible for them to signal discomfort. Several states have halted all executions because of the controversy.