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North Carolina Medical Board asks judge to dismiss death penalty lawsuit

[JURIST] Lawyers for the North Carolina Medical Board [official website] argued in court Wednesday that a lawsuit filed [JURIST report] against them earlier this year by the North Carolina State Department of Corrections [official website] was filed prematurely and should be dismissed. The lawsuit alleges that recent medical board policy changes preventing doctors' participation in lethal injections impede the corrections department in carrying out executions. Under North Carolina law, a doctor must be present at all executions; recent changes made to lethal injection procedures now 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, but prohibit [policy statement] any direct involvement in the actual execution. The lawsuit asks a judge to rule that a lethal injection is not a "medical procedure," thus barring the medical board from disciplining participating doctors. Judge Donald Stephens said he expects to rule on the motion for dismissal next week. WRAL has more.

In January, Stephens blocked two executions [JURIST report] when doctors refused to participate after the policy shift. Recently, the death penalty [JURIST news archive] was suspended in several states - including Tennessee, Florida, California, and Maryland [JURIST reports] - pending review of the manner in which it is administered. Tennessee and Florida have since resumed executions, and California is considering new death penalty protocols proposed [JURIST reports] by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this year.

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