Recently, North Carolina’s highest court has ruled that a medical licensing board overstepped its power with a policy to discipline doctors who participate in executions.
This ruling on Friday has upheld a lower court ruling, which can now result in a resumption of executions in North Carolina. There has been a hold on all State executions for more than two years now.
The Medical Board maintains that the role of the physician is to end suffering and preserve life. The board has taken the stance that active physician participation in executions runs counter to the core values of medicine.
Attorneys representing North Carolina State argued that a physician should monitor an execution in order to prevent cruel or unusual punishment. The opposing view argued by the medical board and the American Medical Association said state lawmakers wanted a doctor to be present but not actively participate.
This halt in State executions stemmed from a challenge to the use of lethal injection, which is a method of execution that opponents argue is cruel and unusual. A federal judge later said that the state must monitor the condemned for signs of pain, and in an attempt to comply, North Carolina altered its procedure for putting an inmate to death.
By changing their approach the State has expanded the role a doctor plays in an execution beyond state law, which only requires a physician be present. The state medical board responded by adopting an ethics policy that threatens to punish any doctor who takes part in an execution.
The dissent also said the ethics policy doesn’t prohibit a physician from being present and says the board won’t impose discipline "for merely being present during an execution."
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