Saturday, 22 September 2007

Florida lethal injection procedure contributes to the foreseeable risk of extreme pain.

Consciousness assessment requires at least some input from medical science.

While execution by lethal injection may not be a medical@ procedure, by its very nature it requires input from medical science.

It was invented by a doctor and it uses medical chemicals and techniques.

Moreover, the assertion that lethal injection is not a medical procedure has more to do with concerns about the identity and participation of medical team members than with how the procedure is carried out.

The reference in the motion to what the warden said was a reference to Warden Cannon`s testimony in Lightbourne.

The Lightbourne hearings examined the issue of consciousness assessment in some detail.

Lightbourne`s expert witness, Dr. Heath, said unequivocally that the DOC`s past, present, and proposed procedures for assessing consciousness were wholly inadequate from any point of view, medical or not.

Consciousness is in fact a lay concept.

Proper administration of anesthesia requires that the subject be in a surgical plane of anesthesia@ and that he be monitored to determine Aanesthetic depth.

If an inmate is not sufficiently anesthetized when either of the two second drugs is administered, he will suffer excruciating pain.

Further, if an inmate is not sufficiently anesthetized when the pancuronium bromide is administered, the inmate would suffer the agony of suffocation.

As alleged in the motion, the anesthesiologist monitors the appearance of the patient, response to stimuli, EKG, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, moisture content of the skin, size of the pupils, carbon dioxide respiration levels, and oxygenation of the blood if on a heart lung machine using sophisticated medical equipment.

The anesthesiologist (or certified registered nurse anesthetist) is normally at bedside constantly monitoring the subject directly and checking the equipment.

By contrast, the testimony from the Lightbourne hearings shows that the person who will be making the consciousness assessment has no medical expertise beyond that typical of any law enforcement officer.

His plan is to shake the prisoner and call his name.

If that is the plan for maintaining an ongoing assessment of consciousness it is manifestly inadequate given the use of a paralytic.

The protocols specify that he will assess consciousness after consultation,but not with whom.

The warden testified that the consultation would be with one of the medically qualified personnel, but the protocols
do not require that.

Nor do the protocols direct the use of any medical equipment to assess consciousness, the heart monitors are used only to determine death.

In short, Florida`s lethal injection procedure does not employ any input from medical science in assessing the prisoner`s state of consciousness at any time during the execution.

Given the use of a paralytic, this omission unnecessarily contributes to the foreseeable risk of extreme pain.

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