Federal Judge Requires Medically Trained Personnel for North Carolina Lethal Injection
U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard has ordered North Carolina prison officials to provide medically trained personnel to ensure that death row inmate Willie Brown, Jr. is unconscious during his execution, currently scheduled for April 21. Prison officials have until noon on April 12 to present their plan for complying with the order. "Serious questions have been raised by the evidence concerning the effect of the current execution protocol. If the alleged deficiencies do, in fact, result in inadequate anesthesia prior to execution, there is no dispute that Brown will suffer excruciating pain," Howard wrote in his order. According to the North Carolina Society of Anesthesiologists, only an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist under a doctor's supervision could do what the judge is requiring.
In March, the execution of Michael Morales in California was delayed due to a similar court order. In that case, state officials were unable to find doctors willing to make sure that Morales was unconscious when paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs were administered. As with the more recent lawsuit filed by Brown, Morales' attorneys had argued that inmates are not sufficiently sedated during the first phase of the lethal injection process, and that the inmates may be unable to communicate while suffering intense pain. The American Medical Association opposes physician participation in executions.
(The News and Observer, April 10, 2006). See Methods of Executions; see also DPIC information on executions stayed because of challenges to lethal injection. Read Judge Howard's Order. UPDATE: Brown was executed on April 21 after the state obtained a brain wave monitor that was monitored in an adjacent room by a doctor during the lethal injection. (News & Observer, April 21, 2006).