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Medical controversy creates virtual moratorium on California executions

[JURIST] California faces a virtual moratorium on executions in the wake of a court ruling that medical professionals must monitor executions by lethal injection to be sure that the inmate feels no pain. The execution of condemned killer Michael Morales [NCADP profile], was put on hold [JURIST report] late Monday after two anesthesiologists refused to take part [JURIST report]. The American Medical Association [advocacy website] has long opposed such action on ethical grounds, thus making it unlikely that the state would ever be able meet the requirement. Previously, licensed medical workers only pronounced the prisoner dead.

Without specifically ruling on the merits of capital punishment, the courts have in a way made executions in California impossible to carry out. On Sunday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to grant Morales a stay of execution, but instead ordered that a doctor be present [JURIST report] to guarantee Morales' Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. A federal district judge had earlier ruled that California must change the drugs it uses [JURIST report] to avoid the possibility of inflicting extreme pain during the process. Thirty-seven of the 38 states using capital punishment have a method similar to California's, making it possible that the Supreme Court will consider for the first time whether the lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. AP has more.

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