[JURIST] North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday approved a measure aimed at resuming executions after nine years. The law removes the requirement to have a doctor present at all lethal injections and instead would allow nurses, physician’s assistants or paramedics to oversee lethal injections in the state. North Carolina’s House of Representatives [official website] passed the legislation in an 84-33 vote. The measure still must pass the Senate. Currently there are 149 inmates on death row in North Carolina. The state has not executed any inmates since 2006, partially due to conflicts with policy changes of the North Carolina Medical Board [official website]. The Medical Board believes physician participation in capital punishment is a departure from the ethics of the medical profession [NCMB position statement]. However, in September 2007 a state judge ruled [JURIST report] that the North Carolina Medical Board does not have authority to discipline doctors that participate in state death penalty procedures.
Lethal injection [JURIST news archive] and execution methods have been at the forefront of the death penalty debate for the past few years. Earlier this week the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure. Oklahoma became the face [JURIST report] of the legal injection drug debate last year after death row inmate Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack shortly after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him using a lethal injection drug called midazolam. Also in April the Delaware Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the death penalty, but the legislation includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on Delaware’s death row. In March Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill [JURIST report] to restore the firing squad as a method of execution, making Utah one of the few states with that option. Like in Oklahoma, if drugs used for lethal injections are unavailable, a firing squad would be allowed.