A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

North Carolina doctors should be commended for refusing to aid executions

Liliana Segura [Campaign to End the Death Penalty]: "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 "in a manner comparable to that normally used in medical settings", 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 country's 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 penalty's injustice. Even if it were possible to "fix" 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 "machinery of death" as the needle and the gurney. The time to abolish the death penalty is long overdue."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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