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U.S. group urges states to use only legal drugs for executions

  1. ZenobiaSky
    (Reuters) - U.S. states executing prisoners should stick to using legally obtained drugs approved by federal health regulators, despite shortages that have left officials scrambling, a legal rights advocacy group urged in recommendations released on Wednesday.

    The Constitution Project said in a report that drugs used in executions should have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, and should be checked to ensure they are effective and have not expired.

    Capital punishment is a possible sentence in 32 of the 50 U.S. states, and many states are grappling with a shortage of drugs once used for executions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and governments in Europe, where many of the companies are headquartered, object to use of the products in executions.

    The report said most states use a combination of three drugs for lethal injections: sodium thiopental as an anesthetic, pancuronium bromide as a muscle relaxer and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

    "Although many states require the use of sodium thiopental in their lethal injection procedures, the shortage of the drug for executions has caused states to scramble to find alternative supplies or to begin using a different drug as a replacement," the group wrote.

    Last week, a botched execution in Oklahoma prompted President Barack Obama to call for a federal investigation. State officials cited problems with the inmate's veins. The situation brought renewed scrutiny of execution procedures, which vary state by state.

    In the wake of drug shortages, some states have turned to new lethal "cocktails" as an alternative to hard-to-obtain, FDA-approved drugs. Those face legal challenges.

    The wide-ranging report by the Constitution Project also urged states to ensure their facilities are set up correctly and that properly-trained medical personnel deliver the injections.

    The group calls for 39 changes to the capital punishment system to ensure constitutional rights are protected.

    For example, it seeks new standards obtaining and reviewing forensic evidence and calls on Congress to establish federal system to accredit forensic laboratories.

    It recommended other safeguards such as preservation and review of evidence after conviction to help prevent executions of innocent people. It also called for major reforms in several states including Texas, Alabama, California and Pennsylvania.

    "While some jurisdictions have made progress toward implementation of best practices, others persist with policies that appear harder to justify in light of changing knowledge and standards," it said in its report.

    Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and David Gregorio
    Wed May 7, 2014 12:34pm EDT

    The Newhawks Crew


  1. ZenobiaSky
    I just don't get why they have to make this so difficult. From my experience as a medical professional, and dealing with anesthetic drugs from a pharmacy perspective as far as what is commonly used, shortages and ordering, sodium thiopental is so old school the only people that use it are state's that still use it as an anaesthetic during execution.

    There are so many other newer, FDA approved, readily available, cost effective, drugs to choose from, and made here in the US, why does it need to be so difficult?

    One such alternative used widely by anesthetist is Methohexital (Brevital), Most hospitals I have worked at have gone to using non barbiturate alternatives such as Propofol or Ketamine.

    Use of benzodiazepines such as Versed (midazolam) and Diazepam as an anesthetic, in my opinion, is not adequate for the purpose of sedating a person during lethal injection. These drugs are more commonly used in "twilight" anesthesia, used in short minor procedures where the patient is made sleepy but responsive, and unlikely to remember the procedure itself.

    As far as pancuronium bromide used as a muscle relaxer, I have seen shortages in this in the past, but still, pretty old school.
    Succinylcholine is the more current used muscle relaxer, in combination with an anesthetic, used today, and manufactured by several different companies here in the US, other alternatives include Atracurium Besylate, Cisatracurium Besylate (Nimbex), and Rocuronium.

    Potassium Chloride is very readily available, and very effective in stopping the heart.

    Now if I could figure this out, why can't they?
  2. TheBigBadWolf
    As I said on another thread - they have used ropes for that means for centuries.

    Why use chemicals?

    the whole process of putting people to death by society laws is so 'oldschool' they'd rather use the oldschool methods. If I see the calamities happen I'd say they'd even mess up tieing a knot.

    'we wanna kill you cos you been a bad person but we do not want to suffer from seeing you suffer' is in my eyes still more hypocritical.

  3. ZenobiaSky
    Well said BBW, my opinion on the death penalty is varied, which I also explained in that same thread. I started a new one, cause I thought this brought up new issues, deeper than just what drugs to use.

    But I come from a state that has not executed anyone since 1997, where the only means to execution was the electric chair till 2008. Talk about a horrible way to kill someone, but really if your gonna implement the death penalty for your state, do in a timely manner where people don't sit there for 20 years.

    Nebraska is still trying death penalty cases, and have no means by which to carry these out. That's cruel and unusual.

    And yet, there's that part of me that reads "The group calls for 39 changes to the capital punishment system to ensure constitutional rights are protected." and thinks, what about the constitutional rights of the people they tourchered and murdered... I've read the cases of the inmates on death row in my state, and some of them I feel gave up those rights when they did the inhuman things they did.
  4. TheBigBadWolf

    I could add quite some books to this topic, but I fear it would lead this thread too far astray from what the OP and your statement makes obvious to be discussed.

    Cruel and unusual is always what the lawmakers see as such. for a Roman citizen it was cruel and unusual to be convicted crucified. Not so for a Jewish rebel, they didnt have the same rights as a 'Citizen of the Empire'.
    One might argue that the whole practice of killing by law is unusual and cruel in any today's society.

    Regardless of with which professionality it is done.

    I'm out.

  5. AKA_freckles
    Isn't a big part of the problem that they are using prescription drugs in a way that they can't be prescribed, since it violates the Hippocratic oath? it's illegal to write a prescription to kill someone. Talk about off label use.
    I am still not sure how they legally get around that. How does that work?
  6. ZenobiaSky
    Simple, physicians are not prescribing these drugs to kill someone. It's mandated by state law through legislation passed by that state which drugs will be used, bypassing any violation a physician may face of the oath he took. Basically politicians are prescribing these drugs not doctors.
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