Civil Liberties

America's Secret Death Penalty Drugs

Governments have gone to great effort to keep the sources and methods of their death penalty regimes secret.


In November, the Omaha World-Herald sent a simple records request to the Nebraska state government. Along with several other news outlets, the paper wanted to know the source of the drugs to be used in an upcoming execution—the first in the state in more than 20 years.

In the past the Nebraska Department of Corrections would have provided this information, but now it refused. Officials there insisted that the supplier of the drugs the state intended to use, in the name of its citizens, to sedate, paralyze, and stop the beating heart of an inmate were exempt from Nebraska's public record law.

In December the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to challenge the denial.

Nebraska is just the latest state to decide the executioner's black hood of anonymity also covers the pharmacies that mix the deadly compounds used to kill prisoners. As lethal injection drugs have become scarcer and more difficult to obtain, governments have gone to great effort to keep the sources and methods of their death penalty regimes secret. The information that has trickled out through the dogged work of investigative journalists reveals that these states have turned to untraceable cash transactions, unregulated pharmacies, and overseas scammers to buy drugs to fill the veins of condemned inmates. They have even resorted to experimental combinations of drugs, in several cases leading to botched executions.

In 2016, Virginia passed a law shielding the identities of the pharmacies that provide its death penalty drugs. Its next execution lasted 48 minutes—half an hour longer than officials expected—after the condemned inmate was first injected with Midazolam, a controversial sedative that many states turned to after the European Union banned exports of sodium thiopental in 2011.

Fourteen other states have similar secrecy laws. Officials argue such secrecy keeps the flow of necessary drugs unimpeded—but it also leaves death row inmates, their lawyers, the press, and the public in the dark about how governments are wielding the gravest of their powers. Oklahoma once went so far to avoid leaving a paper trail that a state official drove across state lines and purchased execution drugs from a pharmacy using petty cash, essentially acting as a drug mule.

Other states have looked overseas to solve their death penalty problems. A series of BuzzFeed News investigations revealed that at least three states paid Harris Pharma, a mysterious company in India run by a man with no pharmaceutical background, to ship sodium thiopental to them, despite a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on importing the drug.

Nebraska ordered $54,000 worth of the stuff from Harris—enough to perform 300 executions. The FDA intercepted the shipment, leaving Nebraska taxpayers on the hook.

In a press release, ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller says the group's lawsuit "lays out Nebraska's shady history of backroom deals and attempts to circumvent federal law to obtain lethal injection drugs. In recent years, Nebraska taxpayers have spent over $54,000 to obtain drugs that have never been used and taxpayers' dollars still have not been refunded."

Because of the difficulty of getting Midazolam and sodium thiopental, and because of those products' unreliability, states are now tinkering with other drug combinations. Nebraska is currently planning to execute inmates with a never-before-tried mix of four drugs: diazepam (more commonly known as Valium), potassium chloride, cisatracurium besylate (a paralytic), and fentanyl citrate. That's right, fentanyl: the same super-strong synthetic opioid responsible for a wave of fatal overdoses over the past several years. Nevada also wants to use the substance in its upcoming executions.

Although lethal injection is touted as a humane alternative to the electric chair or gas chamber, it may be impossible to know if an inmate is suffering during the process. Because Nevada and Nebraska's four-drug cocktail includes a paralytic, an inmate could remain conscious or regain consciousness during the execution without giving any outward sign, forced to slowly suffocate while potassium chloride burns through his or her veins. That's why the American College of Veterinarians forbids the use of paralytics when euthanizing animals.

Prison officials have no such qualms about condemned human beings. But the American people should. The secrecy surrounding the U.S. death penalty regime, and states' penchant for experimenting with what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun once famously called "the machinery of death," is a ghoulish farce masquerading as an enlightened alternative to a bullet or a hangman's noose.

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  1. This entire process confuses me. Cats and dogs are put to sleep every day, probably millions a year, Quick, simple, cheap, no suffering that we know of. Why not use the exact same drug on humans?

    CO or CO2 (I forget which) supposedly puts people to sleep painlessly. Medical operations put millions of people under every year,

    I also do not understand the flip from the electric chair, which seems about as barbaric as any Medieval torture, to this pants-wetting about hurting the guy they are about to kill. And yet no one has any qualms about the actual end result.

    Fucking statists. They are the strangest people I know of.

    1. Either would kill, CO2 would cause a suffocating sensation, while CO would quietly cause you to fall asleep. N2 would be better than either, (Since leaks would have no medical consequences for bystanders.) and I’d like to see death penalty opponents try to cut off the supply of that.

      It’s not that hard to understand what’s going on: The death penalty is relatively popular, because the people getting it are very unsympathetic. So, unable to win that debate, the opponents are trying to make sure it happens in an inhumane way, so as to give the courts an excuse to ban it.

      The essay downplays the truth of what’s going on: The difficulties getting the drugs are being engineered by death penalty opponents, for the explicit purpose of causing botched executions.

      1. Death penalty opponents have been engaged in a multifront campaign of sabotage for decades. They don’t want it to be humane, they don’t want it to be fairly applied, they don’t want it to be justly applied, they don’t want it to be carefully applied, they don’t want it to be efficient or timely. They didn’t originate these flaws in the system, of course, but they sabotage any efforts to improve any of these things–then they, perversely, wield these very persistent flaws against proponents.

        There are no good efforts to push back, and support for capital punishment continues to plummet among principled people. It will probably be restored in some red states (I think the “conservatives against capital punishment” trend has seen its growth peak for the time being); and if Kennedy retires while Trump is president the completely undisguised program of gradually abolishing it from the bench will be halted. But increasing partisanship will undoubtedly mean it will not survive its next turn at the ballot box in California (undoubtedly 2020), which will be a huge deal–a very big, very liberal but very pro-death state will be no more.

        1. It is as if these people are dishonest and lack ethics!

          1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

            This is what I do…

      2. Basically this. The state is cagey with its sources because it knows what happens when you’re transparent: Anti-death penalty activists swarm the source and pressure them to stop supplying.

        I think everyone here wants a more limited and transparent government but engineering a situation where the government can only be incompetent and then punishing them for being transparent about it isn’t necessary.

        1. I think the bigger question is how this impacts assisted suicide. If we can’t agree on drugs to enable the death penalty what does that mean for me if I choose to end my life? Those same people so stridently against the death penalty that use illegitimate means to achieve their goal are the same group that will stop me. Because good intentions and knowing better for me.

          I want some reform to the death penalty, but fuck those people. I’m tired of the idea that if you can’t win at the ballot box, courts, and court of public opinion you can go on with with underhanded and conspiratorial work while claiming to be virtuous. Fuck that.

          1. I myself have often wondered that! The crowds rending garments over the death penalty and hyping assisted suicide have enormous crossover. How the fuck are these same drugs so excruciating and agonizing and inhumane when given to hardened murderers, and yet so beautiful and calm and peaceful when given to Grandma to float off on her fluffy cloud?

            1. It seems that physician-assisted suicide often uses barbiturates, which slow respiration and heartrate and also act as potent sedatives. I have no idea why these couldn’t be used for lethal injection. Maybe it’s too humane for the folks that want to abolish the death penalty, and maybe our omnipotent overlords don’t want the public to know that barbs are lethal, because drug war and stuff. Not that anybody even prescribes barbs anymore with the ubiquity of very-safe benzos.

              incidentally, I’m on the fence about the death penalty because we have exonerated folks after their execution, but that was using DNA evidence which we can now use to make bulletproof connections, so the chance of false convictions has massively diminished. These botched procedures are rubbish, though.

              1. Employing the death penalty is incredibly simple. Where it becomes costly and problematic is when the anti death penalty activists get involved.

            2. You know that this whole assisted suicide thing is a red herring right? Nobody is stupid enough to miss the distinction between choosing to die and being murdered by the state.

              1. We get it, you hate the death penalty and are willing to do whatever underhanded shit that you need to in order to stop it.

                1. And what underhanded shit am I doing exactly?

        2. Anti-death penalty activists swarm the source and pressure them to stop supplying.

          This is exactly the problem. There have always been pharmacists who refuse to dispense drugs for lethal injection on principle, but there were some that figured if the state insists on killing somebody, they would use the utmost professionalism in making that execution humane. Now the latter group is getting demonized, and for good reason they’re afraid to continue, so the only sources left are grey-market or unprofessional ones.

          1. I have wondered…have the international drug companies, distributors, pharmacists, etc., who have proclaimed that their products are not to be used for death (somewhat understandable, perhaps, for a product marketed mostly to people who do not wish it to kill them) proclaimed the same efforts to prevent them from being used for assisted suicide? How is supply for these projects never a problem?

            1. How is supply for these projects never a problem?

              A curious question indeed. Sodium thiopental, the former lethal execution drug that’s now subject to insane trade restrictions, is in the same class as physician-assisted suicide. Undoubtedly it is more humane than potassium chloride. Maybe the FDA seized 300 doses of it because they were worried about … ? It comes from some shady dude, but barbiturates are old drugs, and it was discovered in the 1930s. Its synthesis methods are well-known.

              Maybe the FDA just likes flexing its muscles, even disrupting the legal functions of US states.

          2. There is no reason why pharmacists need to be involved in any procurement process.

            The profession of pharmacy involves legally dispensing drugs. They also used to be able to provide poisons (you had to sign a log for your cyanide, just like you do now for Sudafed. But in most states that ability is now gone.

            And even then, the poisons that were sold were not for human use. Meaning, by definition, chemicals intended to cause death or serious injury were never within their purview. (This is also why many balk at being involved in assisted suicide.)

            Any state choosing to go through a pharmacy for chemicals intended to cause death is choosing a really poor path. They wouldn’t buy bullets from them, why by potassium chloride from them either?

      3. I have long thought the same, that death penalty opponents make such bountiful hay when the sources are known, and thus governments are reluctant to divulge their sources.

        But this theory falls apart in the face of your statement that N2 or CO would be painless, and N2 leakage would be harmless to bystanders. Why not then use this? Opponents couldn’t pressure sources. Impervious to buying the drugs through unofficial channels.

        There’s something else going on.

        1. DiegoF also mentioned that physician-assisted suicide using barbiturates is quite humane, and barbs are old, well-known drugs. I see no reason why the hellfire burn of potassium chloride would be preferable to inert gas asphyxiation, barbs, or any number of other methods. The former standard lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental is itself a barbiturate, and the US restricts its import and the EU restricts its export. Given that the EU is the cradle for physician-assisted suicide, it seems hypocritical that they’d deny the world humane, lethal drugs and encourage them to use less desirable methods.

          Maybe watching serial killers flick their eyes around in absolute agony is a joy to some sadistic folks, a la Green Mile.

          1. I think the Europeans very much enjoy the theater of looking down their noses at us as backwards savages, as opposed to themselves, as paragons of human rights, progress, equality, and refinement. Their actions have long precluded any confusion between the satisfaction of engaging in the superiority theater and the satisfaction of doing anything actually meaningful.

            1. This is true, and that’d be fine if the folks in this country weren’t so enamored with trying to implement their policies on this side of the Atlantic. You just can’t convince these people that the small, homogeneous populations of most European countries allows for the successful implementation of socialist policies. They don’t have tens of millions of people that would take advantage of that system – for multiple generations – in a hot second.

              Europe can posture and virtue-signal all they want. The way their society went haywire at a few million refugees is proof that they can’t handle the diversity of America.

              1. successful implementation of socialist policies

                Really? Where? Everything they’ve done has dragged their economies down. They’ve relied on Uncle Sugar for defense spending, can’t cut much more there. They’ve sorta stalled Greece’s downward spiral. barely holding the line there.

                It will take a while to finish the fail, but that’s the eventual outcome unless they actually try to undo some of their socialism, like the Scandinavian countries have started to do.

                1. That’s true. “Success” is a perception of the ponderer; the actual performance doesn’t matter. I have plenty of pro-universal health care friends that refuse to look at the numerous shortcomings [ran out of chars. for more link URLs] of the NHS in Britain and only supplement their knowledge with confirmation bias.

                  I think the refugee crisis, as Brett below mentioned, has been a bit of a wake up call to the fragility of the welfare system and the difficulties of assimilating uneducated populations. Unfortunately, I don’t think folks in the US have taken these lessons to heart. I have heard 16 million excuses as to why the communist systems in the USSR, Cuba, et al. have failed but our country won’t. Somehow we’re so much better and smarter than everyone who’s tried before.

                  I argued with a die-hard communist that if we relinquish our jobs, healthcare, guns, education, and even necessities like food and water to the government, what are we going to do if some totalitarian asshole (Trump was my example) gets control and decides to spend all of our taxes on nukes like North Korea?

                  “Then we’ll take up arms and revolt!”

                  … and yet, there was no, “aha!” moment. Just somebody 100% sure that what they heard from their friends is the only truth-somebody unable to consider 2nd-order consequences.

              2. “They don’t have tens of millions of people that would take advantage of that system – for multiple generations – in a hot second.”

                They didn’t used to have tens of millions of such people. They recently imported them.

                1. Germany only had about a million refugees, and it’s been rough.

                  Tens of millions would bury the whole EU as it is right now. :/

              3. What does that exactly have to do with the death penalty? As an European anti-socialist who does acknowledge the failure of European multiculturalism, I will proudly look down my nose on any country where the poplulation literally allows the government to murder them.

                1. No, we allow the government to murder murderers. (And baby rapists, until Kennedy & co. decided it offended their personal infinite wisdom.) Is it accurate to say of the European population that you “literally allow the government to imprison you”? It certainly should be by your reasoning.

                  I will take our alleged vice, and continue to look down my nose at a people who literally allow their government to take half of what they labor for, and to tell them what sentiments they may and may not express. At least we do actually have to be convicted and sentenced in order to be treated that badly.

                  1. (Mmm, that seemed a little chauvinistic. I am sorry. I do think that on balance we are clearly the greatest civilization in human history, but we are not perfect. And, while this is not necessarily one of them, there certainly are things that Europe actually does better than us for sure.)

                2. Well … that’s a completely reasonable view.

                  Certainly on this site there are a lot of us that don’t trust the government to do a damn thing; they’ve executed innocent men before, and even with DNA it’s bound to happen again. I think this is one of many grey-area libertarian topics. The person who taught me politics was in favor of abolishing it for exactly this reason. As it is, I think the compromise of allowing the states to choose is about the best we’ll manage. This has allowed us to pretty definitively state that the death penalty has had little-to-no effect in reducing the occurrence of capital crimes.

                  It’s not about deterrence as much as it’s about vengeance for the victims’ families. A red-blooded American would probably consider me a pussy for not agreeing with such a sentiment, and I’ve no desire to utilize shady means like hassling the pharmacists and inhibiting the states’ ability to obtain humane drugs, so there’s not a lot I can do.

                  The article says that the EU won’t export and the US won’t import sodium thoipental, and our only stateside manufacturer got pressured to stop selling it for lethal injections.

                  What do? ?\_(?)_/?

                  1. I am rather staunchly against retribution as a penal value. (This goes both ways–I’m not inclined to value survivors’ pleas for mercy either.) I don’t like the recent trend towards “victim impact statements” in courts one bit; I find it useless and rather distasteful and barbaric, and likely to focus sentencing away from the factors it should center around. I am generally very staunchly liberal and pro-reform when it comes to the justice system–to an extent that I couldn’t get elected as the Berkeley, Calif. dogcatcher if the electorate knew my real views. I just can’t get very excited about the death penalty per se as a monstrosity, and find it rather odd how many people who don’t give a shit about state brutality and unfairness in general get all aflutter about the execution of our most brutal murderers. (Then again, they might think I’m a bit weird. I am not the least bit bothered by the execution of baby rapists but am utterly appalled that they should be forced to “register” if they are released into the public.)

                    I am also more skeptical of the “no deterrence” view than you consider a no-brainer. Intuitively this would not be the case; and the studies–despite the absurd leftist bent of the criminology profession–seem to have been somewhat mixed. I’ll reserve judgment on this point until I learn more.

                    1. You aren?t “bothered by the execution of baby rapists”, but who determines if someone is a baby rapist or a murderer? A bunch of hillybillies pretty much selected b couldn’t get elected as the Berkeley, Calif. dogcatchery the government? Sure, defence has a say in choosing the jury, but as you surely acknowledge yourself, pro-reform, skeptical of government or anti-death penalty people do not stand a chance in seven hells to actually sit on a jury, let alone in a death penalty case- unless they are very convincing liars. Doesn?t sound exactly graeat. Sure, professional judges are often no better, and easier to corrupt especially in sensitive cases, but at least they aren?t given the power to determine someone?s death.

                    2. Oops, sorry. You aren?t “bothered by the execution of baby rapists”, but who determines if someone is a baby rapist or a murderer? A bunch of hillybillies pretty much selected by the government? Sure, defence has a say in choosing the jury, but as you surely acknowledge yourself, pro-reform, skeptical of government or anti-death penalty people do not stand a chance in seven hells to actually sit on a jury, let alone in a death penalty case- unless they are very convincing liars. Doesn?t sound exactly graeat. Sure, professional judges are often no better, and easier to corrupt especially in sensitive cases, but at least they aren?t given the power to determine someone?s death.

          2. They did try using barbiturates (pentobarbital – same as used in animal control) but the activists went after the US suppliers and scared them off. European states then went one step farther and banned their manufacturers from selling to the US, this briefly led to shortages until the animal control people worked out their supply chains.

        2. Basically, any time you switch to a new way of executing people, you give the generally opposed to the death penalty judiciary another chance to outlaw it. So they tend to stick to means that have precedent as being legally permissible, so as to not give death penalty opponents yet another chance.

        3. The reason they don’t use N2 or CO is that any new method of execution would be immediately subject to lawsuits by death penalty opponents claiming that the new method is inhumane. The existing drugs have already have lawsuits over them and they’ve already been ruled okay by the courts, so they are immune to further nuisance lawsuits.

      4. So, like nuclear power?

        Actually there’s more to it than that, as I explain below.

    2. And yet no one has any qualms about the actual end result.

      You’re sure about that?

    3. That’s a myth. Animal that are euthanised in bulk( not at the request of their paying owner but at shelters)are loaded up in a decompression chamber and are actually “humanely” hemmoraged internally. Something to contemplate when you leave you at or dog behind to “fend for itself” please spay and neuter. America destroys millions a week,not a year.This would never do for a convicted murderer. They must be coddled.

      1. Damn. Why don’t they just bring the animals to the local police range? Might be able to recoup some expenses and the animals won’t suffer as much.

  2. “Products’ unreliability”

    Those products own unreliability? Just the kind of editing I love here at reason.

    1. Grammatically, yes they do. That construction is standard English.

      1. They are pretty bad at editing, though; you’re right!

  3. Midazolam is not generally considered “controversial.” It is administered to most Americans having surgery. What is controversial is the use of Midazolam as the sole sedative in executions, because it causes relaxation, but does not reliably cause unconsciousness. In the discussed Virginia execution, no other medication was added to cause unconsciousness.

    The fact that fentanyl is often abused is not relevant in determining if it is an optimal medication for use in executions. It is a fast-acting strong pain reliever.

    1. The problem I’d have with fentanyl, or most any other opiate is that you can have some visibly disruptive side effects – ie. vomiting in people not accustomed to large doses. This would occur even in the presence of serious doses of midazolam.

      Better to set up a 20 minute infusion of midazolam, or propofol, then give two large successive doses of succinyl choline at the two and five minute mark (phase II block being the goal.) Within thirty seconds to one minute of the first dose the recipient would be totally paralyzed. Brain death would occur within 10-15 minutes maximum.

  4. Why not propofol? If it was good enough for Micheal Jackson it’s good enough for a murderer!

    1. Now that many states have (rather cruelly and ridiculously) abolished or severely curtailed the Last Meal, a choice of “MJ or Prince” for the event itself would be a fun and magnanimous gesture.

      1. I didn’t know about the last meal. That’s ridiculous. I guess the logistics of having a prison kitchen cook filet mingon

        1. Greasonable trolling me.

          I guess the logistics of having a prison kitchen cook filet mignon is a PITA, but it’s still silly.

    2. Propofol replaced sodium thiopental on the WHO list of essential medications. Sounds like we have a solution!

      Pack up boys, and somebody bring the Thriller album.

    3. Propofol alone is just not reliably fatal enough. Propofol along with a plastic bag over the head is.

      1. Thomas D what about a fentynal appitizer with a propofol chaser. Wouldn’t that cover the consciousness part and stop life? I’ve O.D.ed on Fentanyl & don’t remember even hitting the floor. Luckily, a nurse gave it to me.

  5. What about the good old firing squad? Too honorable for your average murderer?

    1. All states have switched to the needle over my short lifetime, but many still have the “traditional” method in place as backup–or in fact have brought it back since the execution-drug crisis began. In the U.S. states never have really used the squad; it’s more of a military method anyway. The sole exception is Utah, which switched to the needle more than ten years ago but recently brought the squad back as backup–as has Oklahoma, which never used it in the first place! Great way to show you mean business, but it would probably be horrible P.R. to have to use it for the present.

      1. I figured that they abolished it because it’s a big-ole mess.

        Good to have as a backup, though. Cheap and effective.

      2. Also, I remember as a boy watching an episode of Night Court where–I believe it was during a fever dream of Dan Fielding’s–Judge Harry Stone sentenced him or someone else to death by firing squad.

        This is quite misleading as well–Ohio has used lethal injection exclusively since Furman (though perhaps this was poorly known at the time, since their first execution would not actually be carried out until 1999). This too has bothered me since I was a child. (Antismoking laws are indeed portrayed accurately, however.)

  6. Having just read the Sheldon Richman article below, not to mention the comments, I’ve concluded that liberal and vigorous use of the death penalty by any means necessary would be a Very Good Thing.

  7. I’m always torn about the death penalty. I have two competing opinions regarding it:

    1. The death penalty is, absolutely, a just punishment for some horrific crimes.

    2. The government is too fucking stupid to be trusted to judge who deserves the death penalty.

  8. Why not just render the convict unconscious with standard surgical anesthetic, then kill him by whatever means is convenient, knowing he won’t feel anything? I don’t understand the need for special execution drugs.

    1. That’s the intent of the sodium thiopental -> paralytic -> potassium chloride method. Propofol has replaced sodium thiopental as the general-purpose anesthetic. I don’t know why it couldn’t be used; its pharmacology is quite different, but the resulting effect is different.

      One thing that was strange about when I had to go under using propofol; they asked if I had an egg allergy. It’s a milky white liquid colloquially called “milk of amnesia.” Oh, and I was at a teaching hospital, in a 10×10 room, with 12 people and a fluoroscope crammed in there (most interesting case of the night/day), and the resident was pushing the anesthetic for the first time and the supervising doctor said, “woahhh slow down, you’re going to kill him!”

      That’s the last thing I remember. Good times.

  9. Speaking in terms of pure efficiency, a 7.62 NATO JHP to the head is both cheap and efficient.

  10. Simple fix: strap the condemned in the back of a El Camino and shut the door to the prison garage with the engine running. CO poisoning causes you to drift off peacefully to sleep (in non-fatal doses it can cause dizziness and headaches) and as a bonus, you get to spend your last minutes in a sweet-ass El Cam.

    Total cost to taxpayers: $40 of gas.

    1. The gas chamber as practiced in America uses cyanide, and is widely considered to be the worst method from a humanitarian perspective regularly used in this country at any point. I don’t know exactly why CO has never been used. I’ve heard murmurings that more humane gases are indeed being looked back into nowadays, with the present situation.

      1. CO could be used humanely but then you have to deal with disposal and exposure to employees. It was mentioned above and completely agree N2 is the way to go. The atmosphere is 78% N2 anyway (so no risk to others or environment) and breathing 100% N2 just makes the person feel very sleepy before the lack of O2 causes unconsciousness. So unconscious in less than one minute, the brain will die 2-3 minutes later, and the heart will stop about 5-10 minutes after that. There is not even a need for a chamber, just an air tight mask over the face like firemen use connected to the 100% N2 tank. Each is even reusable.

  11. It’s because of laws & ethics. Controlled substances such as midazolam require a prescription, & the prescription has to be for professional purposes, i.e. whatever the practitioner’s licensed for. Doctors aren’t licensed as executioners. Therefore if it’s found out that the drug’s being used to put someone to death, the pharmacy’s not allowed to dispense it. So the whole charade depends on part of gov’t being willfully blind to what another part of gov’t is doing. Hence the secrecy.

    1. I hadn’t considered that. Technically a pharmacist dispensing drugs for lethal injection is violating the Hippocratic Oath.

      1. And the narcotics laws, if they’re controlled substances such as barbiturates.

      2. Medical specialists have been available for killing for a very long time. Thomas Szasz warned, but even few libertarians have listened.

    2. “Controlled substances such as midazolam require a prescription”

      It’s not that simple.

      Controlled substances, used for the purposes of medicine (ie. treating or alleviating human disease), require a prescription. Controlled substances, used for other purposes (e.g. non-human research or experimentation) generally do not require a prescription.

      They still may require a controlled substance registration with the DEA, but States, acting as states, are generally exempt from that. Consider that your local law enforcement has an evidence locker loaded with controlled substrances, but no DEA registration.

  12. Bring back the guillotine. It’s quick and just about impossible for even your average government employee to botch the job.

    If we don’t have the stomach for that particular method of state sponsored homicide, maybe it’s worth considering that we shouldn’t do it at all.

    1. Guillotine’s considered a humane way of killing animals.

    2. Dr. Guillotin identified a foolproof and humane method of execution over two centuries ago – but the truth is, people care more about whether the execution is _messy_ than whether it is inhumane, and beheading is messy.

      And that’s also why the lethal injection protocols use a paralysing drug where veterinarians ban the use of such drugs in euthanasia – these drugs prevent unseemly wriggling by the dying creature, and incidentally conceal whether the protocol was botched, leading to a slow and painful death. You’d think that a massive overdose of fentanyl would suffice without requiring a complex (and often botched) series of injections, but I hear that death by opiate overdose is not pretty.

      Going back further in history, in the early 1800’s it was noticed that hanging with a long drop to break the neck seemed to be fast and relatively humane. (Not that anyone who’d experienced it could confirm this.) For a while, there was a push to use very long drops uniformly, but then some fat, weak-necked man’s head came right off. I’d think that accomplished the goal, possibly at lower cost than a guillotine, but people freaked out. Hangmen learned to measure the weight and the neck, and consult tables to determine how far to drop their subjects so as to break the neck, but not too much.

  13. America doesn’t want you to get high, it wants you to die. Moral errors of omission and commission.

  14. The criminal justice system relating to defense of defendants is seriously broken.

    Until its fixed, there should no no more executions.

  15. This is a back door attack on the death penalty. By getting the names of the providers of execution drugs they can then force those providers to stop providing the drugs. But there is a source of drugs that could be used for execution that they have already have and will always have. By selecting the drugs that any well stock medical emergency room has a cocktail could be made on site that would work better than the execution drugs being provided now.
    If all else fails there is the fail safe form of execution which will not fail. That being 5 30 cal rifles each with a 150 grain soft nose bullet then stand up the subject up in front of a soft bullet absorbing wall. If the condemned needs to sedated there is drugs that will to that and the condemned would not feel a thing when the 5 rounds strikes the heart. But even without the sedatives the brain would not register the pain if there would be any. Execution carried out with no undue pain and suffering.

    1. Or second could be given the chance to decapitate the condemned. So at least then someone will get their quickening.

  16. I think I’d rather be shot 3 or 4 times in the chest.

  17. I have a solution. Give murderers a choice(something that wasn’t afforded their victims) Hanging,firing squad or propofol. You know,the Jackson sleeping potion? Works wonders I hear,and they won’t feel a thing.(something that the convicted murderers didn’t allow their victims)
    Seems to me,all the secretly to avoid the ACLU and whining liberals ,therefore difficulty obtaining legal,potent drugs,is their (bleeding heart liberals,aclu and death penalty opposition) fault.

  18. An easy and guaranteed way to stop someone breathing,and heart beating is to have them become a threat to the Clintons.But might not work very well in this application.nevermind.

  19. It’s a fool who thinks the current American justice system has the credibility to assign a sentence of death on anyone.

  20. “… first injected with Midazolam, a controversial sedative…”

    The controversial nature of Versed / midazolam would be news to the thousands of hospitals that use it every day in ER or OR settings.

    Now, its _use_ as a prelude to an execution _may_ be controversial. It’s use as a sedative is not. And, it’s safer than Valium / diazepam, which (from an outpatient perspective) is safer because it’s not retained as long in fatty tissue.

    Potassium chloride should, by interfering with the sodium/potassium pump in cardiac tissue, stop the heart very quickly.

    “That’s right, fentanyl: the same super-strong synthetic opioid responsible for a wave of fatal overdoses over the past several years.”

    It precipitates fatal overdoses? Isn’t that what we’d be looking for in an execution? A benzodiazepine to sedate, a narcotic to depress breathing, a paralytic to prevent thrashing, and KCl to stop the heart sounds like as gentle a death as one could arrange.

    If the author is anti-death penalty, he should come right out and state that.

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