Lethal injection methods in various states in limbo
States across the country are finding it difficult to carry out death sentences by lethal injection due to drug shortages and court challenges by death row inmates
NEW ORLEANS – Lethal injection, which was the capital punishment method of choice after the electric chair was deemed too cruel, is now falling out of favor.
Pharmaceutical companies are in rebellion against him. States fight to keep it. And there is a new wave of controversy – and a lot of lawsuits– alleging that lethal injections are almost as inhumane as the firing squads.
Now the future of the legal injection is uncertain and looking for alternatives.
There are 31 states that currently allow the death penalty, with lethal injection is the primary method for performing the practice. In the past few years, many of these countries have faced drug shortages due to the manufacturers is the cutting off of the supply, to raise objections about how their drugs are used.
Robert Dunham, director of the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center says he is not surprised that drug supplies are cut off.
“In every state that you are trying to perform executions, the prisoners have a challenge, the manner of execution. And those challenges are for the entire state of the protocol where they are attacking the use of certain drugs, or it is what is called an ” as-applied challenge in people with certain medical conditions to say that the use of any form of lethal injection is not suitable for them because of the way they will react.”
Several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas have recently faced with legal problems or questions about lethal injection protocols, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A judge in Tennessee recently granted the state permission to start a new cocktail of drugs to carry out executions.
Some countries have even gone further with the adoption of secrecy laws for the protection of the source of the obtained drugs.
“All states that carry out executions have a form of secrecy…” Dunham said. “The member states shall in the first instance said that this is necessary for the obtaining of the drugs, because drug manufacturers were harassed, they claimed, by anti-death penalty advocates. These allegations have all turned out to be false. But the states have continued to attempt to expand the secrecy and the real reason is because the drug manufacturers themselves, are opposed to the use of their medicines in the execution.”
Drug manufacturers, like Pfizer, Athenex, Akorn, Roche, Janssen and others have statements against the use of their products in designs. In 2016, Pfizer started with the imposition of checks on the medicines and make sure that they would not be used for lethal injections.
Drugs such as Midazolam and Pentobarbital have been affected by the companies are not willing to sell their products to the states. Midazolam was in the middle of a controversy after a failed attempt to execution of an Oklahoma inmate in 2014. The drug was also part of an intense performance schedule and method carried out by the state of Arkansas last year.
Dunham also discussed February 2017 attempted execution in which an Alabama inmate where the man was stuck 12 times in order to find a usable vein. The prisoner’s lawyer said the man of the bladder may be punctured during the attempt.
In a more recent case, the United States Supreme court stayed the execution of Missouri death row inmate Russell Bucklew. Bucklew has a cavernous hemangioma, including symptoms such as weak blood vessels and blood-filled tumors in the throat and the nose.
A doctor and professor of medicine says the law of the lethal injection is often mistaken for a medical procedure.
“These are the types of medications that doctors use, and how these medicines are used for the purposes of the implementation, that is not really a doctor’s job,” said Dr. Joel Zivot, a professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. “That is the state taking these types of drugs, and repurposing them as gif. In my hand, these are used for the treatment of diseases and in the state of the hand of the same compounds are now being used to kill.”
Zivot strongly indicated that he is not a proponent or opponent of the death penalty itself, but rather an activist for the elimination of the field of the medicine of the whole process of the execution of criminals. He commented on how some cases, the practice may be in violation of the Eight Amendment. Zivot is not only, the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Medical Association prohibit members from participating in executions.
Some states have tried different construction methods if lethal injection drugs are not available. Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi all laws governing the use of the death by nitrogen hypoxia, or the gas chamber. Tennessee allows the use of the electric chair, while Utah has passed a law allowing death by firing squad if the state is unable to obtain the right medications. New Hampshire allows inmates to be executed by hanging if it is impractical to have a sentence of death by injection.
Criminal defense lawyer Ashleigh Merchant said states may have to go as far as producing their own drugs to the carrying out of the death penalty. Merchant went even further by saying that death by lethal injection would be able to come to a stop.
“I think that this problem could go to the Supreme court, eventually, but it is a very interesting issue that the courts are probably not going to be able to resolve it, because what we have is an independent drug manufacturers who refuse to provide the drugs unless the state says they don’t plan to use them for executions,” Merchant said. “Now we have drug companies that we do not say” believe in the death penalty, and they cannot be forced to produce drugs that will be used in the implementation. So they are really the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and their faith and that can put an end to this type of implementation.”
Merchant said death penalty procedures, such as the electric chair and hanging, but was overtaken by social pressure.
“I think it’s more than just the individual inmate’s rights. I think the us as a society, because the Supreme court said that we have the death penalty, but it should be judged by a changing standard of decency,” she said. “Yes, we want security in these sentences, but is there a way to do that without violating the Eighth Amendment and without cruel and unusual, and we just haven’t been able to find a way that society is OK.”
Willie James Inman, is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames