Judges in several states have started to put up potentially insurmountable roadblocks to the use of lethal injections to execute condemned inmates, reports the New York Times. Their decisions are based on new evidence suggesting that prisoners have endured agonizing executions. In response, judges are insisting that doctors take an active role in supervising executions, even though the American Medical Association’s code of ethics prohibits that. A federal judge in North Carolina, for instance, ordered state officials there to find medical personnel by noon today to supervise an execution scheduled for next week. Otherwise, the judge said, he will impose a stay of execution.
“This, of course, will make lethal injections difficult, if not impossible, to perform,” said Dr. Jonathan I. Groner, a professor of surgery at Ohio State University who has studied lethal injections and opposes the death penalty. A California judge plans to hold hearings on the issue next month, after an execution there was called off for lack of doctors, and the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments this month on whether death row inmates may use a civil rights law to challenge lethal injections as cruel and unusual punishment. Scores of similar suits, asserting that lethal-injection procedures are illogical and potentially torturous, are pending around the nation.