Execution By Drug Overdose
The execution of Warren Hill has been postponed. The fishwrapper reports “Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens on Tuesday said the state will begin using only one lethal injection drug — the sedative pentobarbital — instead of three. … “The department has been using pentobarbital in its execution process and based upon the experience of other states and compentent medical testimony the drug has proven to be effective,” said a statement released by the Department of Corrections. “The department is committed to carrying out the order of the court in the most responsible and professional manner possible.”
On March 11, 2011, Ohio tried something new. ” Ohio executed an inmate Thursday with a single drug previously used to euthanize animals, the first execution of its kind in the United States and a potentially pivotal development in the nation’s emotional battle over capital punishment. Johnnie Baston, 37, was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville after receiving an infusion of the powerful barbituate pentobarbital, officials said. Baston was sentenced to death for the 1994 killing of Chong Mah, 53, a Toledo store owner. ”
The Associated Press wrote a report, Ga. Switching to Single-Drug Method for Executions. It is available all over the internet. “Georgia began using pentobarbital as part of its three-drug combination last year after another drug, sodium thiopental, became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. But pentobarbital is now in short supply after its manufacturer said it would try to prevent its use in executions.
Three other states — Arizona, Idaho and Ohio — have carried out single-drug executions using pentobarbital, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Ohio was the first to use just pentobarbital, during a March 2011 execution. Washington state has used the method with sodium thiopental, the center said. A total of 11 executions have been carried out using pentobarbital alone, said center executive director Richard Dieter. … Missouri has said it plans to use propofol, the anesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson’s death, for single-drug executions.
Pentobarbital is most commonly used to euthanize animals and treat seizures. It wasn’t created to kill people and still is relatively untested for use on humans, said Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno. “The whole reason lethal injection was created was to have a humane method of executing people. Drug selection in the late 1970s had that goal in mind. Now, drugs are chosen out of convenience because they’re the only thing available, not because they’re the humane choice.”
Dr. Howard Nearman, chairman the anesthesiology department at Case Western Reserve University’s medical school, said the change to a one-drug procedure makes sense. The drug takes away respiratory drive and creates blood pressure changes that cause the heart to give out, he said. “They’re going to rely on the drug that puts you to sleep to actually make life systems stop working,” he said.”
The execution procedure, euphemistically known as lethal injection, began using a three drug cocktail. This is the proctol approved by the US Supreme Court. The procedure involved “a three-drug cocktail that included sodium thiopental to kill pain, pancurium bromide to paralyze the inmate and potassium chloride to stop the heart.” It is not known if there is a shortage of pancurium bromide or potassium chloride.
The use of sodium thiopental was curtailed after the manufacturer refused to allow it’s use in executions. The maker of pentobarbital has similar concerns.
But pentobarbital could eventually become scarce. Most state justice departments say that for security reasons they cannot specify how much of the drug they have stored, but pentobarbital’s manufacturers have in recent months acted on a number of fronts to prevent its use for executions.
Lundbeck Inc., a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug until late last year, sent letters last August to governors and correctional departments in 16 states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — saying it did not want its drug used for executions.
When that request was ignored, the company switched from using several distributors last June to using a drop ship program, selling its product directly to health care facilities through a single distributor, Cardinal Health. In addition, every medical facility that received the drugs had to sign a document saying the product would not be used for executions or resold for that purpose. “We stated very clearly that we’re in the business of improving peoples lives and using it for capital punishment is against what we do,” Matt Flesch, spokesman for Lundbeck, told iWatch News.
Finally last December Lundbeck sold its pentobarbital rights to Illinois-based Akorn Inc., which signed an agreement promising it would not sell the drug for the purpose of executions.
Lets review this story. The State of Georgia has delayed an execution. It announced a change in procedure the day before an execution was scheduled to take place. They are changing from a protocol approved by the Supreme Court. They are going to use a deliberate overdose of pentobarbital to kill a prisoner. This act raises questions about the ability of the State of Georgia to administer the death penalty in the proper manner.
The death penalty is strong medicine. Cases are put through a rigorous appeal process. In the case of Warren Hill, this process has lasted 22 years. The question many have about the death penalty is the capability of state government to wisely use this strong medicine. The actions of the State of Georgia yesterday would indicate that the state is not smart enough to use the death penalty.
The motto of the State of Georgia is Wisdom, Justice, Moderation. Taking twenty two years to execute a man is not just. Using a deliberate drug overdose to carry out this execution is neither wise nor moderate.
Pictures today are from ” The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”