NC Lethal Injection Battle

Started by Jeff1857, March 07, 2007, 12:47:14 AM

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Judge: Medical Board Can't Punish Doctors Involved In Executions

POSTED: 2:40 pm EDT September 21, 2007
UPDATED: 4:19 pm EDT September 21, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina Medical Board overstepped its authority by threatening to punish physicians for participating in executions, a judge ruled Friday, striking down a policy that effectively triggered a moratorium on the state's death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said state law does not grant the medical board the right to prohibit doctors from assisting in executions.

"Although the current effort by the medical board to prohibit physician participation in executions may well be viewed as humane and noble, such a decision rests entirely with (elected officials)," Stephens wrote in his six-page ruling. "As of this date, the legislature has taken no such action."

Stephens also ruled that executions are not medical procedures, further separating the medical board from the debate over whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

"We're very deeply disappointed," said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty in Carrboro. "We certainly hope that the medical board will stand up for its authority. Why have a medical board if we're going to allow our politicians or our judges to decide the ethical standards of doctors?"

The medical board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in North Carolina, threatened in January to punish any doctor who takes an active role in an execution, saying that the process violates the ethics of a profession tasked with saving life. State law requires that a doctor be present during a lethal injection, and a federal judge demanded last year that a doctor oversee the process of putting an inmate to death.

Dale Breaden, a spokesman for the medical board, declined to comment on the ruling, saying officials will discuss the details at their next meeting in the middle of October.

"This is something we have to study to decide what reaction would be appropriate and what actions would be appropriate," Breaden said.

The state had revised its lethal injection process in an attempt to satisfy the judge, requiring that a physician monitor "the essential body functions of the condemned inmate" and notify the warden if the inmate shows signs of "undue pain and suffering."

Stephens's action could be the first step toward untangling what Gov. Mike Easley has called a "Gordian knot" that has prevented North Carolina from executing a condemned inmate since August 2006. In the past year, the debate over the death penalty has involved at least two state agencies, several courts, the medical board and the Council of State, made up of Easley and nine other statewide elected officials.

Officials from the Department of Correction did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
OK. Maybe we'll get back on track SOON. I think this is the judge that stopped everything in the first place though.


Maybe they need to decide on a doctor like they do jurors.  Just call them in and it is a duty they must serve. 


Good to see Julie again. Where YOU BEEN?


Tennessee Death Penalty Ruling Could Impact N.C.

In Raleigh, a federal court ruling in a Tennessee death penalty case could add to the dispute over North Carolina's execution protocol.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Wednesday that Tennessee's lethal injection procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, delaying an execution planned for next week.

The new protocol, released in April, "presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain" and violates death-row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison's constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, Trauger said. The protocol doesn't ensure that inmates are properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, which could "result in a terrifying, excruciating death," she said.

Harbison was scheduled to be executed Sept. 26 for beating an elderly woman to death during a burglary in 1983.

Tennessee uses the same cocktail of drugs in executions as North Carolina: sodium pentathol is used to render the inmate unconscious. Pavulon then paralyzes the body, and potassium chloride kills the inmate by stopping the heart.

North Carolina Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. last month ordered state officials to review the execution protocol, saying lawyers for inmates weren't allowed to provide input and ask questions about whether the procedures adequately protected inmates against cruel and unusual punishment.

"I noticed it's the same thing we're dealing with in North Carolina," Morrison said of the Tennessee ruling. "I didn't think it verified or ensured that the person is unconscious before they poison him or put him to death."

North Carolina's death penalty has been on hold since January, when the state Medical Board adopted a policy that threatened disciplinary action against any physician who participated in an execution.

A judge ruled that the policy conflicted with state law requiring the presence of a physician at executions, and he said the Council of State would have to resolve the matter. The Council of State, a group of 9 elected officials, including Gov. Mike Easley, then revised the execution protocol and increased the role of physicians in executions.

The Council of State is expected to take another look at the protocol next month. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, who sits on the council, said she wants the dispute resolved soon so executions can resume.

"If we're going to have the death penalty, (these rulings require) that we do it the right way. If not, I'm not sure the courts are going to let anybody be executed," Morrison said.

Just throwing up more of a smokescreen.


RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina's death penalty continues to bounce around the legal system, with death row prisoners now asking the state's elected leaders to follow a court ruling that found they didn't properly consider a new procedure for carrying out executions.

Lawyers for the prisoners said the leaders, members of the Council of State, should have heard from prisoners involved in the case.

But attorneys for the state said the council, made up of the governor and nine other officials elected statewide, should uphold its earlier decision on the grounds that the law requires the state Correction Department to establish the protocol for lethal injections.

The council's only duty is to approve or reject "necessary appliances" and "qualified personnel" provided by prison officials, not exactly how the Central Prison warden would carry out an execution, the state said.

The state also contended that the council's decision "did not require the providing of any procedural rights and that the petitioners, who all are convicted murderers with separate actions pending in state or federal court."

The petitions were filed Monday; the council has a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.

In a decision Aug. 9, Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison said the council should have heard arguments and evidence from representatives of condemned inmates challenging the state's execution method.

"We are asking the Council of State to adopt Judge Morrison's findings," said defense lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt, who represents inmate Jerry Conner. "They did not hear from parties who had a legitimate reason to be heard."

Kleinschmidt said once the council decides, the matter probably will go back to Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens. It was Stephens who told the council to review the protocol after inmates sued the state, which hasn't executed anyone since last year because of the legal morass.

The issue is separate from the lawsuit filed by the state Correction Department against the state Medical Board, which adopted a rule that doctors couldn't participate in executions. In that case, Stephens said the medical board didn't have authority to punish physicians who participated in executions.

Kleinschmidt said the cases are complicated and that the U.S. Supreme Court announcement Tuesday that it will consider the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case only makes them more so.

"None of this can be resolved at this point," he said. "The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to chime in and presumably tell the states how to proceed with lethal injection, if at all, it seems none of this litigation can proceed."


At some point Iīm asking me whatīs the problem to find a correct chemical?  ???

Why donīt they use pure cyanid? Itīs a well tested chemical and often used from "volunters".


Iīm not sure if thereīs a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

Granny B

At some point Iīm asking me whatīs the problem to find a correct chemical?  ???

Why donīt they use pure cyanid? Itīs a well tested chemical and often used from "volunters".



Any thing that kills them is fine with me.  The more painful the better.  Noticed they did not take any care to give their victims a pain free death. >:(
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


Ye, Applause to you Michael.

You talk too much sense...

...keep looking over your shoulder mate!

Allah Akbar,

Peter M.

P.S: KARMA forwarded.


Mayn thanks Peter!  :-*


Iīm not sure if thereīs a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


State officials reject judge's ruling on N.C. execution policy

Gov. Mike Easley said that the Council of State's vote was not about whether North Carolina should or shouldn't have the death penalty.

Top state officials declined yesterday to revisit a dispute over the role of doctors in executions, a clash that has thrown North Carolina's death penalty into legal limbo for nearly a year.

Since January, the N.C. Medical Board has barred doctors from assisting in putting inmates to death. That is at odds with state policy, which requires that a doctor monitor a condemned inmate's vital signs while an execution is being carried out.

Gov. Mike Easley and nine other elected officials voted yesterday not to reconsider the state policy, despite a judge's ruling that the policy was improperly adopted. They said that the judge who issued the ruling has no jurisdiction in the matter.

The group of 10 elected state officials, collectively known as the Council of State, wanted to avoid a substantive debate about capital punishment. Instead, they limited themselves to the narrow question of whether they were legally required to reconsider a lethal-injection procedure that they first approved in February.

"A lot of people mistakenly think that the Council of State is voting on whether the state should or should not have the death penalty," said Easley, a Democrat who has supported capital punishment in the past.

For now, Easley said, what is in effect a moratorium on the death penalty will continue while various legal issues surrounding the role of doctors are resolved in the courts. Ultimately, that could mean a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently agreed to hear a challenge to the method of lethal injection in Kentucky.

In North Carolina, 5 executions have been suspended because of the fallout from the medical board's declaration that taking an active role in an execution is a violation of medical ethics. The board, which licenses doctors, has threatened to punish any doctor who participates in an execution.

But a federal judge has ruled that executions must be carried out under a doctor's supervision, and North Carolina's lethal-injection procedure requires that a doctor monitor the condemned inmate's "essential body functions" and check for signs of undue pain and suffering.

The Council of State approved that procedure in February. But in August, an administrative-law judge in Raleigh ruled that the Council of State's approval was inappropriate. The judge, Fred Morrison, said that the council should have heard from representatives of death-row inmates before voting on the lethal-injection procedure.

Yesterday, rather than reconsider the lethal-injection policy or deal with the substance of Morrison's ruling, the council approved a resolution stating simply that Morrison had no jurisdiction to rule as he did.

Jurisdiction over death-penalty cases falls under a different judge - Donald Stephens of Wake County Superior Court. In this instance, however, Stephens agreed to allow Morrison to consider whether the council's approval of the lethal-injection procedure was appropriate.

Stephens recently issued a separate ruling of his own. He ruled last month that the medical board overstepped its authority when it threatened to punish doctors for participating in executions. The medical board will discuss whether to appeal that ruling at its meeting later this month, a spokesman for the board said.

Since the debate over doctors and the death penalty began, the Council of State has been reluctant to get involved. In addition to the governor and lieutenant governor, the council is made up of department heads such as the commissioner of agriculture, the state treasurer and the superintendent of public instruction, who generally feel that they have little expertise on the death penalty and that it should not be their role to make such policy decisions.

The state legislature has also remained on the sidelines.

The last inmate to be executed in North Carolina was Samuel Flippen, a former Clemmons resident who was convicted of killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter.

He was put to death on Aug. 18, 2006.

Attorneys in North Carolina and around the country have for years challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection, and last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided for the 1st time to hear arguments on the issue. In January, it will hear a challenge from 2 death-row inmates in Kentucky, who say that the method of lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The case could have implications for North Carolina, which uses the same 3-drug cocktail in its lethal injections as Kentucky and many other states.

"We're probably just spinning our wheels," said Jim Long, the commissioner of insurance, during yesterday's Council of State meeting.

"The final decision is probably going to come from the U.S. Supreme Court."

Long was the only member of the council who voted against the resolution asserting that Morrison's ruling was not within his jurisdiction.


Jeff this merrygoround reminds me of this:


Doctors to appeal N.C. execution ruling

The N.C. Medical Board plans to appeal a judge's ruling over the role of doctors in lethal injections, saying it will stand up for the principle that physicians should not take an active role in executions.

In the ruling last month, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said that the medical board had overstepped its authority when it adopted an ethics policy that prohibited doctors from participating in executions. An execution, Stephens said, is not a "medical event."

The board decided Wednesday to appeal the ruling.

"After thoughtful deliberation, the board determined that the principle that physicians should not take an active role in judicial executions is a principle that should not be abandoned," the board said in a statement today.

Dr. Arthur Finn, a professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Medicine, said the language in Stephens' ruling put the board in a position where it needed to appeal to maintain some sense of autonomy.

"Once a judge starts ruling medically, you just never know where it's going to go," Finn said. "You just can't let one person without total, adequate information make decisions like that."

Dr. Ross McKinney, director of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine at Duke University, said the battle over the board's authority is yet another unfortunate entanglement between the law and medicine.

Doctors and medical boards have long had to make careful decisions about what battles to fight. McKinney cited clashes over abortion rights and insurance as examples of contentious issues between law and medicine.

"I think they will be weighing the cost of taking it to court versus the impact on the profession," McKinney said.

Dr. Charles van der Horst, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UNC-CH, disagreed with Stephens' ruling and wanted the medical board to appeal.

"I think people are worried because this could be a slippery slope," van der Horst said. "First they rule that this isn't a medical procedure. What are they going to do next?"

In a letter to the medical board after the ruling, van der Horst urged the medical board to stand firm and defend its principles.

"We are required to provide care to those in front of us without regard to race, religion, past behavior, gender, insurance status, and a whole litany of characteristics," he wrote. "This has become increasingly difficult as insurers, attorneys, and others tell us what we can and can not do.

"But at all times we should at least aim for the moral high ground. When we make life easier for those who try to change us by caving in to their demands prematurely, we compromise our ethics and give up some of our humanity."

Stephens made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Department of Correction against the medical board. The board's ethics policy made it impossible for correction officials to find a doctor to attend scheduled executions.

Judge: law first

Stephens said the board overstepped its authority in its policy and cannot trump state law, which requires the presence of a doctor. His ruling also said an execution is not a "medical event" and therefore doesn't fall under the oath.

At the same time, though, Stephens said the law requires doctors to participate because of their medical expertise.

Van der Horst disputed the finding that an execution is not a medical procedure.

"While I have the utmost respect for Judge Stephens' legal abilities, he is not a physician and consequently not the proper person to determine what a medical procedure is," van der Horst said in his letter to the board.

He argued that executions are medical procedures and bolstered his argument by citing the medical terminology used to describe the procedure as well as the equipment used, including injections, EKG machines and brain monitors.

In an affidavit this year, Warden Marvin Polk describes how lethal injection is administered. He says a registered nurse is present to monitor the prisoner's brain waves on a machine typically used in hospitals during surgery.

Polk's affidavit describes the role of an emergency medical technician, who is there to monitor heart rhythms on an EKG. He says a medical doctor is required only to be present and to certify death. However, Polk also says that he expects anyone who sees something amiss during an execution to alert him so he can stop the procedure.

Dr. John Faulkner, who has a family practice in Raleigh, sides with Stephens, saying the law requiring a doctor's attendance at executions was clear and should be the ruling factor.

'Board overreached'

"I think the medical board overreached in its ethics policy, and the conclusion Stephens came to was a common-sense conclusion," Faulkner said. "When the Hurricanes have a hockey game, they have the paramedics there not to just watch the game, but they are there to act and to be called upon to use their skills and training and tools."

Faulkner said doctors should make their own decisions about participation in administering the death penalty.

"I respect anyone's opinion, but I think it depends on one's personal belief, their religious background and how they interpret the Hippocratic oath," Faulkner said. "I see the condemned individuals as people who are dying, and I put them in the same boat as end-stage lung, liver and heart patients who I want to assist to an end."

Mary Johnson, an Asheboro physician who writes about medical issues, disagrees with Faulkner and Stephens.

After Stephens' ruling in September, she wrote that medical ethics had "gone out of the window."

No surprise to her

"I am not at all surprised," Johnson wrote about Stephens' ruling. "Many, many good-ole-boys in Raleigh want executions to get moving again -- no matter what, no matter how. If the lawyers that actually run the Medical Board have any [courage] at all, they will appeal the ruling."

Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who has been watching North Carolina's handling of the death penalty, said decisions about medical ethics should be made within the medical community.

"This is a debate about professional ethics," Caplan said, "and not what the public wants or any third parties dictating what ethics are."

(source: Charlotte News & Observer)

Henrik - Sweden

October 22, 2007, 04:16:40 PM Last Edit: October 22, 2007, 04:20:05 PM by Henrik - Sweden
The Board's actions so far seems reasonable to me. The doctor's first duty is always the interest of the patient - not what the public wants. To help killing someone who isn't terminally ill - even if it only means to monitor the process - is not that.

On the other hand - you can easily find much more common examples of doctors acting against the interest of their patient. Some years ago a young muslim boy died in Sweden due to complications after a circumsision (religously motivated, that is). My cousin who is a medical doctor questioned his colleague in very sharp words when we met shortly after. How can a doctor, he argued, perform a circumsision just because someone arrives at their clinic with a little boy, saying their religion demands it? The boy is the patient and it is certainly NOT in his interest to undergo surgery that is at least somewhat painful and can cause complications, when there is no medical or surgical reason for it.

What you COULD argue in both the DP and the other case is that the procedure will be performed anyway - but by someone who lacks the proper medical knowledge. That could make things much worse for the patient. This is also a reasonable argument. The problem is that with this kind of argument you could motivate things that are even worse - like f.e. circumsision on girls or young women.

I think that the oath serves a good purpose and that attempts to defend it shall be treated with respect, even if you don't like the outcome. I don't think this doctors acts like they do because they want to make all you DP-supporters pissed. Or because they are scumdocs... (new word again!  ;D)


Henrik my old Swedish pal, I don't have a problem with any doctor that refuses to participate in an execution. That's not even the issue here in my great state of NC. But when the medical board of the state tries to dictate political policy that's a huge issue and unethical as well as illegal by them. They have no right or authority to threaten to sanction or pull a medical license for a doctor that would choose to participate. A doctor's participation is minimal anyway. Pronounce death or if something goes wrong to jump in and assist. And trust me in a pro death penalty state they/we do not have a problem finding a doctor that would be in the chamber without the threats of the med board. But to borrow your phrase the head of the med board IS a scum doc. ;D. Regards.........Jeff  ;)


RALEIGH, N.C. -- Attorneys for five death row inmates are asking a judge to reverse a decision by the Council of State that revised the state's method for conducting executions.

The lawyers say they weren't allowed to speak to the panel of state officials before the decision was made.

The state Department of Correction changed its protocol for lethal injection last year.

The Council of State approved the changes after Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered a review the execution method. He wanted a doctor to oversee the executions.

But the state Medical Board has threatened to punish any doctors involved.

Those issues and other cases caused a legal tangle that has effectively halted executions in North Carolina. The most recent execution took place in August 2006.
And the beat goes on.

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