March 26, 2007

States Suspending Executions

11

That’s the number of states that have suspended executions because of questions over lethal injection, the primary method of execution in 37 of the 38 states that have retained the death penalty — only Nebraska still uses the electric chair.

Eleven of 38 death penalty states have suspended executions as the role of doctors in administering lethal injections is surfacing as the latest ethical issue to force a re-examination of capital punishment in the United States; the sharpest debate is shaping up in North Carolina, where the state corrections department and the state medical board are headed for a showdown over the board’s declaration that it will punish any doctor who participates in executions. The fight in North Carolina is the first time a state medical board, a state agency that licenses and disciplines physicians, has willingly pushed itself into the debate. Months after a judge said a doctor must monitor a death-row inmate’s vital signs to ensure there is no pain, the state’s medical board in January said it would punish any doctor who did anything more than observe executions. As a result, a judge has stayed five executions. Lethal injection is now the primary method of execution; only one state, Nebraska, uses the electric chair. Read More