Friday, 12 January 2007
Experts Warn Execution Drug May Mask Suffering
A growing number of medical and legal experts are warning that the chemical pancuronium bromide, a commonly used lethal injection drug, could leave a wide-awake inmate unable to speak or cry out as he slowly suffocates.
Advances in medicine have found that the drug, used by executioners to paralyze the skeletal muscles while not affecting the body's brain or nerves, can mask severe suffering.
While the American Veterinary Medical Association condemns the use of pancuronium bromide in the euthanasia process because "the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized," the majority of states that maintain the death penalty continue to incorporate it as the second of three drugs used to execute those on death row.
When questioned about what death row inmates would feel if the first short-term anesthesia drug did not function properly and the remaining two drugs, including pancuronium bromide, were administered, Dr. Mark J.S. Heath of Columbia University stated, "It would basically deliver the maximum amount of pain the veins can deliver, which is a lot." (New York Times, October 7, 2003). See also Botched Executions.