Judge To Decide Doctors’ Roles in Executions
A federal judge in California next month will hold hearings to determine whether execution by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment after doctors' refusal to supervise the procedure resulted in a stay of executions for inmates, the New York Times reports (Liptak, New York Times, 4/12).
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in February ruled that the scheduled execution of an inmate could have proceeded if an anesthesiologist was present to determine whether the inmate is sufficiently unconscious. However, doctors refused to participate citing ethical concerns (California Healthline, 2/21).
State attorneys have proposed the addition of a continuous infusion of a powerful, short-acting sedative during the execution to ensure that an inmate remains unconscious while other chemicals that cause paralysis and heart failure are injected. The proposal does not call for a doctor to be present during an execution.
However, some doctors say continuously infusing the sedative requires constant monitoring by a trained medical professional (California Healthline, 3/13).
The Times reports that judges in several other states are ordering doctors to participate in the execution of an inmate by lethal injection, which the American Medical Association's code of ethics prohibits (New York Times, 4/12).
A federal judge in North Carolina last week, citing Fogel's ruling, said a scheduled execution could proceed only if someone with medical training were present to ensure the inmate is unconscious (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/11).
In response to the ruling, North Carolina officials said they had purchased a machine to monitor the inmate's brain activity during the execution. According to the Times, the action "suggests ... difficulties" similar to those California officials experienced in locating a physician willing to participate in the execution (Liptak, New York Times, 4/13).