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Doctors' orders

"Doctors' orders" Continued...

Issue: "Crossing borders," June 23, 2007

Though Rushford says physicians should be able to participate in executions, he also says lethal injection will continue to generate controversy as long as it remains the preferred method of execution since it is "quasi-medical" and sometimes complicated. He supports finding a new method: "I think science could come up with better ways."

In the meantime, the North Carolina Department of Corrections is suing the North Carolina Medical Board, asking a judge to prohibit the agency from disciplining doctors who participate in executions. Berger, who speculates that the case will take at least two years to resolve, has also introduced a bill in the North Carolina legislature that would protect physicians. So far, the bill hasn't made it out of committee.

Legislatures in Oklahoma and Georgia already have passed similar laws to protect physicians. Lawmakers in Georgia passed their bill in response to out-of-state physicians who attempted to force the state's medical board to punish doctors who helped the state carry out lethal injections. The board refused, and the plaintiffs are now suing the board.

While physicians across the country await the outcome of these cases, another group waits as well: victims' families. Rushford says he regularly hears from victims' families who have been waiting for years for executions to be carried out. They need closure, he says: "For them, it's torture."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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