[JURIST] The North Carolina State Department of Corrections [official website] filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Medical Board [official website] Tuesday, alleging that recent policy changes preventing doctors' participation in lethal injections prevent the corrections department from carrying out executions. Under North Carolina law, a doctor must be present at all executions and changes made to lethal injection procedures last month require the attending doctor to monitor the condemned prisoner's vital signs and stop the execution if he seems to be suffering. State medical board rules allow doctors to be present during executions, but recent policy changes [text] prohibit any direct involvement in the actual execution. In January, a judge blocked two executions [JURIST report] when doctors refused to participate after the policy shift. A bill has been proposed [JURIST report] in the state legislature that would shield doctors who participate in executions from disciplinary or corrective measures. The lawsuit asks a judge to rule that a lethal injection is not a "medical procedure," thus disallowing the medical board from disciplining participating doctors.
The death penalty [JURIST news archive] has recently been suspended in several states pending review of the manner in which it is administered, including Tennessee, Florida, California, and Maryland [JURIST reports]. The Los Angeles Times has more.