Thursday, February 01, 2007
North Carolina doctors should be commended for refusing to aid executions
10:01 PM ET
"The Campaign to End the Death Penalty applauds the decision of the North
Carolina Medical Board to refuse physician participation in executions,
leading Judge Donald Stephens to halt executions in the state. The North
Carolina doctors are just the latest in a growing trend of medical
professionals who refuse to carry out state-sanctioned killing. In
California last February, Judge Jeremy Fogel demanded that the killing of
prisoner Michael Morales be carried out ³in a manner comparable to that
normally used in medical settings², only to have medical personnel walk out
at the last minute, refusing to go through with it, and effecting a de facto
moratorium on the country¹s biggest death row.
After a year when 17 death row prisoners were granted stays based on
problems with lethal injection, executions are now on hold in ten states as
a national debate develops over whether executions are cruel and unusual
punishment. In this context, states clinging to the death penalty will
continue to call upon doctors to betray the Hippocratic oath and the ethical
standards of the American Medical Association and carry out their deadly
bidding. We stand in solidarity with those in the medical community who call
lethal injection torture. But we also believe this is only one part of the
death penalty¹s injustice. Even if it were possible to ³fix² the procedure,
the 30 years since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the U.S. have
taught us that there is no fixing the racism, class bias, corruption, and
human error that define capital punishment in this country. They are as much
a part of the ³machinery of death² as the needle and the gurney. The time to
abolish the death penalty is long overdue."
Thursday, January 25, 2007
North Carolina judge blocks executions after doctors refuse to participate
Joshua Pantesco at 3:18 PM ET
[JURIST] A North Carolina state judge on Thursday issued an injunction
blocking two executions until Gov. Mike Easley issues new procedures to
execute capital defendants without the presence of doctors. The new
execution protocol is required after the North Carolina Medical Board last
week changed their capital punishment policy [text], taking the position
that "physician participation in capital punishment is a departure from the
ethics of the medical profession." The new policy threatens participating
doctors with the loss of their license. Lawyers for the two defendants have
argued that only physicians can ensure that executions do not cause undue
pain to the victim in violation of the state and US constitutions. North
Carolina law requires the presence of a physician at all executions.
WRAL.com has local coverage.
Earlier this week, a group of Democrats in the North Carolina legislature
called for the suspension of all executions [JURIST report], pointing to the
recent statewide moratorium on executions [JURIST report] issued by Florida
Governor Jeb Bush in that state. A letter to Gov. Easley [DOC text] said a
moratorium is required "in response to the mounting evidence that the
procedure used to execute prisoners in North Carolina has the potential to
cause undue and excruciating pain."
Several other states have been confronted of late with death penalty issues.
Earlier this month, a New Jersey State commission recommended [JURIST
report] that New Jersey abolish the death penalty completely, replacing it
with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If the commission's
report makes its way into law New Jersey will become the first US
jurisdiction to ban capital punishment in over 35 years. In December, a
federal judge in California effectively suspended capital punishment there
[JURIST report] by ruling that that state's lethal injection procedure
creates "an undue and unnecessary risk" of cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution.
In its 2006 year-end report [PDF text; press release], the Death Penalty Information
Center (DPIC) [advocacy website] noted that the number of death sentences
issued in 2006 reached the lowest level in 30 years [JURIST report].