The jaws of the lightweight, well-balanced, reversed-action needle holder open with pressure on the handles. The needle is automatically grasped with the release of pressure, and is then ready to be passed through the tissues. The needle holder facilitates suturing by decreasing the usual number of motions required by standard needle holders. Since ratchets and finger holders are not present, pressure points on the fingers are eliminated. The instrument can be used with equal facility by right-handed and left-handed surgeons.