State prison officials are asking a court to strip the North Carolina Medical Board of the power to discipline physicians who help the state put condemned inmates to death.
The board's threat in January to punish any doctor who takes part in an execution has effectively shut down the death penalty in North Carolina.
The state argued yesterday that executions aren't medical procedures, and therefore don't fall under the board's jurisdiction.
Because the state can't find a doctor willing to take part, the state said prison officials will be unable to carry out the execution of Allen Holman. He was scheduled to be executed early Friday. The dispute led a judge to cancel his execution yesterday afternoon.
Last year, a federal judge allowed an execution to go forward only after the state said a doctor would monitor the inmate to ensure he didn't feel pain as he received a lethal injection.
The medical board then declared that a doctor who participates in an execution violates medical ethics and risks sanction.