The North Carolina Medical Board takes the position that physician participation in capital punishment is a departure from the ethics of the medical profession with in the meaning of N.C. Gen.Stat. §90-14(a),(6). The North Carolina Medical Board adopts and endorses the provisions of AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 2.06 printed below except to the extent that it is inconsistent with North Carolina state law.
The board recognizes that N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-190 requires the presence of "the surgeon or physician of the penitentiary" during the execution of condemned inmates. Therefore, the Board will not discipline licenses for merely being "present" during an execution in conformity with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-190.
However, any physician who engages in any verbal or physical activity, beyond the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-190, that facilitates the execution may be subject to disciplinary action by this Board.
Relevant Provisions of AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 2.60
An individual opinion on capital punishment is the personal moral decision of the individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life where there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution. Physician participation in execution is defined generally as actions which would fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) an action which would directly cause the death of the condemned; (2) an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned; (3) an action which could automatically cause an execution to be carried out on a condemned prisoner.
Physician participation in an execution, but is not limited to, the following actions: prescribing or administrating tranquilizers and other psyhotropic agents and medications that are part of the execution procedure; monitoring vital signs on site or remotely (including monitoring electrocardiograms); attending or observing an execution as a physician; and rendering of technical advice regarding execution.
In the case where the method of execution is lethal injection, the following actions by the physician would also constitute physician participation in execution: selecting injection sites; starting intravenous lines as a part for a lethal injection device; prescribing, preparing, administering, or supervising injection drugs or their doses or types; inspecting; testing; or maintaining lethal injection devices; and consulting with or supervising lethal injection personnel.
The following actions do not constitute physician participation in execution: (1) testifying as to medical history and diagnoses or mental state as they relate to competence to stand trial, testifying as to relevant medical evidence during trial, testifying as to medical aspects of aggravating or mitigating circumstances during the penalty phase of a capital case, or testifying as to medical diagnoses as they relate to the legal assessment of competence for execution; (2) certifying death, provided that the condemned has been declared dead by another person; (3) witnessing an execution in a totally nonprofessional capacity; (4) witnessing an execution at the specific voluntary request of the condemned person, provided that the physician observes the execution in a nonprofessional capacity; and (5) relieving the acute suffering of a condemned person while awaiting execution, including providing tranquilizers at the specific voluntary request of the condemned person to help relieve pain or anxiety in anticipation of the execution.