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Medical Board: New Execution Protocol a Problem

In its response to a state lawsuit, the N.C. Medical Board maintains that its policy barring doctors from participating in executions never conflicted with state law until a new protocol was adopted.

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Death Row, Death Penalty, prisoner
RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Medical Board responded Tuesday to a state lawsuit over the board's policy to discipline any physician who participates in an execution.

The board adopted the policy in January, contending that taking part in an execution would violate a doctor's ethical code of conduct. Any physician who violated the policy would face suspension of his or her license.

State law requires that a licensed physician be present at all executions to ensure that the condemned inmate doesn't suffer.

In January, a Wake County judge halted several planned executions, ruling that the medical board's policy conflicted with the state law.  State officials then adopted a new protocol for executions in which physicians would State officials would be required to monitor an inmate's vital signs and halt any execution if it appeared the prisoner was suffering.

The state Department of Correction sued the medical board in March and asked that a judge prohibit the board from disciplining physicians who take part in executions.

In its response to the suit, the board maintains that its new policy never conflicted with state law until the new protocol was adopted.

"Since the adoption of lethal injection as a means of execution, no physician has participated in an execution in a manner inconsistent with the medical board's position statement," the board says in its court filing. "It was not until after the medical board issued its position statement that the plaintiffs in this case submitted the execution protocol that contemplates active participation by a physician in executions conducted by the state of North Carolina."

An administrative law judge is reviewing the issue. The medical board also contends his ruling would supersede any injunctive action sought by the state in the lawsuit.


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