Death penalty under fire

Family alleges Ohio execution unconstitutional.
Associated Press
Jan 25, 2014

The prolonged execution of an inmate during which he repeatedly gasped and snorted amounted to cruel and unusual punishment which should not be allowed to happen again, the inmate's family said in a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday, also alleges the drug maker that produced the medications illegally allowed them to be used for an execution and should be prohibited from making them available for capital punishment.

Dennis McGuire "repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain," the lawsuit said. "It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating."

McGuire's execution Jan. 16 lasted 26 minutes, the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999, according to an Associated Press analysis of all 53 execution logs maintained by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

It remains unclear what McGuire experienced. The AP observed him appearing to fall unconscious and remaining so while he snorted, gasped and opened and shut his mouth repeatedly.

McGuire's execution, during which his adult children sobbed in dismay, has led to several calls for a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

In addition, a separate federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to stop the March execution of a northeast Ohio killer on the grounds that condemned inmates could be clinically alive for as long as 45 minutes after a time of death is announced in the state death chamber.

Attorneys for Gregory Lott, who is scheduled to die March 19 for setting an East Cleveland man on fire in 1986 and leaving him to die, also say Ohio is breaking state and federal law by using the drugs without a prescription.

The lawsuit by McGuire's family targets Lake Forest, Ill.-based Hospira Inc., the manufacturer of the drugs used in McGuire's execution.

The company knew its drugs were being used for executions but continued to sell them to Ohio, according to the lawsuit, which seeks damages above $75,000.

Hospira should have known that the drugs "would cause unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process," the lawsuit said.

In 2011, Hospira ended production of sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states for executions, including Ohio, after it couldn't guarantee to Italian authorities where its factory was located that the drug wouldn't be used for capital punishment.

The company also has prohibited other drugs from being used in executions, and took the same steps for midazolam and hydromorphone, the drugs used in the McGuire execution, last year, according to a company statement. Hospira said its distributors have also agreed not to sell the drugs to prisons.

Medical experts wouldn't comment on McGuire's execution or speculate about what he experienced. They agreed that used for surgeries, the two drugs by themselves wouldn't cause pain.

"They are actually used to prevent any pain or discomfort, in a surgical procedure or any other kind of procedure as well," said Robert Weber, administrator for pharmacy services at the Ohio State University medical center.

The first drug, midazolam — sometimes known by its trade name Versed — is administered in surgery to help calm patients, said Dr. Howard Nearman, professor of anesthesiology at Case Western Reserve University. The second, hydromorphone, known by the trade name Dilaudid, is a strong narcotic meant to reduce pain.

"By virtue of what they do, they cause unconsciousness and they inhibit pain," Nearman said.

An anesthesiologist hired by McGuire's attorneys before his execution predicted the inmate would suffer "agony and terror" as he experienced a phenomenon known as air hunger, or the desperate attempt to catch his breath as he suffocated.

An anesthesiologist hired by the state disputed that scenario. That doctor, Mark Dershwitz of the University of Massachusetts, also said McGuire's airways could become obstructed and he might snore as a result, though he would not suffer.

The obstruction of a patient's airways can be a common reaction to sedation, especially if the patient is obese, said Dr. Andrew Casabianca, interim chair of the University of Toledo College of Medicine's Department of Anesthesia.

"Their respiratory rate starts slowing down. Their heart rate may slow down. Their ventilation slows down," he said.

The drugs weren't designed to cause death, Jon Paul Rion, the McGuire family attorney, told the AP Friday.

"There's a clear distinction between a therapeutic use of a drug in a medical environment as opposed to using that drug in an execution style," he said.

"That's the concern, that we're taking drugs that have therapeutic value and we're not using them for the purposes for which the FDA approved nor for which the clinical tests were performed," he said.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus

 

Comments

BabyMomma

And a a$$hole

whattheBucks

I wish he was still gasping and snorting !

KURTje

Similar to Ricky Vitte. People are sick of takers & liars. We want better. Things like this need voted on by the populace.

dudleysharp

The (imagined) Horror of Dennis McGuire's Execution
Dudley Sharp

He didn't feel a thing.

Ohio justly executed rapist/torturer/murderer Dennis McGuire.

Unconscious, he snored and the media went apoplectic.

The Horror is that the media will have 10,000 more articles about the imagined suffering of this executed rapist/torturer/murderer than they did about the real suffering of his victims, Joy Stewart, her husband Kenny, unborn child Carl and their families and friends.

There is no indication that McGuire was conscious or in pain at any time after the first 2-3 minutes of the 25 minute execution process, as pharmacological realities would dictate (see below).

Do folks wheeze, snore, move or cough etc. while sleeping? Do those with opiate overdoses wheeze, snore, move, cough, have spasms, etc.? Of course, which is all that happened with McGuire, as some predicted.

The Associate Press witness:

"McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell." "A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire’s last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later." (OHIO KILLER EXECUTED WITH NEW LETHAL DRUG COMBO, ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer, The Daily Record, January 16, 2014 2:57PM

No evidence of consciousness or pain.

Possibly, someone in the media will look up the overdose properties of the drugs involved (below) and tell us how McGuire could, possibly, have been conscious. He couldn't have been.

The properties of the drugs and their overdosing effects are very well known - by no means an experiment.

FACT CHECKING: Midazolam, a sedative, & Hydromorphone, an opiate/painkiller

The Ohio lethal injection protocol is 10mg of midazolam & 40mg of hydromorphone, mixed together then injected.

The injection took 20 seconds.

The toxicity of benzodiazepines (including midazolam) overdose and risk of death is increased when combined with opiates and when used intravenously, with symptoms including respiratory distress, coma and death.

"More than 80 deaths have occurred after the use of midazolam . . . 78% of the deaths associated with midazolam were respiratory in nature." (MIDAZOLAM HYDROCHLORIDE: Human Health Effects, http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bi...@DOCNO+6751

"The initial intravenous dose for sedation in adult patients may be as little as 1 mg, but should not exceed 2.5 mg in a normal healthy adult.", Midazolam Injection,
http://www.drugs.com/pro/midazol...

4 times that initial maximum dose was given to McGuire.

However, " . . . total dose >5 mg (of midazolam) "usually" (my emphasis) not necessary to reach desired sedation . . .", Medscape, midazolam (Rx) - Versed, IV, http://reference.medscape.com/dr...

Hydromorphone overdose,
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlinepl...

"IV initial dose: 0.2 to 1 mg every 2 to 3 hours (given slowly over at least 2 to 3 minutes)", Hydromorphone Dosage, http://www.drugs.com/dosage/hydr...

40-200 times those dosages were given to McGuire.

2cents

Bring back old sparky, if the power company refuses to sell you power use you stand by generator!

mikeylikesit

yes!

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