Death penalty ruling is no solution
Capital punishment in North Carolina is still tied up in the Gordian knot that former Gov. Mike Easley once described.
A decision today by the state Supreme Court against the state Medical Board in the case over physician participation in executions failed to solve the central moral question for healthcare practitioners.
In a 4-3 vote, the court ruled against the right of the Medical Board to prohibit doctors from helping prison personnel to inject poisons into prisoners.
The safe bet is that executions won’t resume immediately. Many legal and legislative issues remain unresolved, and will keep executions at bay for now.
The decision actually raises new questions: If the Medical Board cannot prevent doctors from helping to poison people to death, why do we even have a Medical Board? What is its authority? Who is to say that having a doctor on hand keeps executions from being cruel and unusual? Should doctors now violate their age-old ethic of doing no harm?
Further, a recent Elon University poll shows a public somewhat divided about the death penalty as people question the fairness, innocent people being condemned to die, not to mention the financial expense.
The legislature right now is considering critical reforms that would address serious flaws in our capital punishment system. Those reforms would help decrease the risk that we execute an innocent person. And they absolutely should be in place before executions resume.