Friday, 2 March 2007

Commission On Administration Of Lethal Injection's Report Says Current Protocols Insufficient

Commission On Administration Of Lethal Injection's Report Says Current Protocols Insufficient

March 2, 2007 6:57 a.m. EST

George McGinn - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Tallahassee, FL (AHN) - Despite the reluctance of medical personnel in cooperating with the Commission On Lethal Injections, it was able to reach a conclusion and presented Governor Charlie Crist several options.

Crist released the final report from the Commission On Lethal Injections Thursday evening, revealing that the current protocols are insufficient to properly carry out an execution when complications arise.

The report also said the execution team failed to ensure that a successful IV access was maintained during the execution of Angel Diaz.

The report also criticized the lack of training of the execution team members, and a failure of leadership when complications arose in the execution process.

The commission, concentrating on the May 3 execution of Diaz, said the preponderance of physical evidence demonstrated that venous access at the time of the execution was improperly maintained and administered. Based on testimony, the commission also found that the Department of Corrections failed to follow their Aug. 16, 2006 protocols, which resulted in the administration of the lethal chemicals to Diaz at least in part subcutaneously. The commission was unable to determine whether Diaz was in pain.

The commission presented three recommendations:

* Protocols, procedures, checklist and documentation - Develop and implement written procedures that clearly establish the chain of command in the execution process; develop procedures to ensure two-way audio communication between the execution team in the chemical room and the death chamber; create a checklist to document steps and functions to be carried out; place a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent inside the chemical room to keep a detailed log of what goes on in 30-second intervals, and add another FDLE agent in the witness room, also keeping a 30-second detailed log.

* Establishing Intravenous (IV) Access - develop a procedure that requires the condemned inmate to be assessed by a trained and qualified person at a minimum of one week prior to the scheduled execution; develop a process to determine the most suitable method of venous access for the lethal injection, considering the technical skills of available personnel; develop procedures to ensure that unexpected events are identified, and in the case that such an event takes place, the execution process should be interrupted and corrective steps discussed and implemented bore resuming the execution.

Other recommendations include written procedures to clearly establish the role of each person involved in the lethal injection process, and develop a training program for all personnel involved in the execution process.

The commission also requested that the governor have the Department of Corrections explore on an ongoing basis other more recently developed chemicals for use in a lethal injection execution.

Carolyn Snerkowski, one of the members of the commission, wrote a dissenting letter to commission Chairman John Jennings, and said the commission went beyond the scope of former Governor Jeb Bush's executive order. In her dissent, she said the commission expanded into personnel matters, "the failure to properly deliver the lethal drugs and the failure to follow current protocols once a problem was detected."

Snerkowski said that although the commission did address issues of the existing protocols, the commission went into re-evaluating the policy decisions of the Legislature.

The American Medical Association also wrote a letter, expressing its concern that the recommendations may require the use of medical personnel, which requires them to operate outside the ethical boundaries of their profession.

"This is a legal and societal problem, not a medical one," wrote Dr. Steve Morris, a commission board member. "A physician must always act in the best interest of the individual as they apply their knowledge and skill; otherwise they risk damage to the trust that patients place in the physician. ... The physician must always place the individual's interest above all else. Physician participating in lethal injections places this trust in jeopardy."

In a press release, Crist praised the work of the commission.

"I would like to thank Chairman Bill Jennings and the 10 other commissioners who have served on the Governor's Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection during the past 10 weeks," Crist said. "I appreciate the commissioners' willingness to examine Florida's lethal injection protocols and their thorough review of the process. In order to ensure the most humane procedures possible, I look forward to working with Corrections Secretary Jim McDonough and the Legislature to address the commission's recommendations."

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