Thursday, 15 November 2007

Doctor Barred by Missouri Helps in Federal Executions

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Doctor Barred by Missouri Helps in Federal Executions

That's the title of a report by Henry Weinstein in today's Los Angeles Times. LINK

A doctor who was barred from taking part in executions in Missouri because of concerns his dyslexia would interfere with his ability to administer lethal injections is helping the federal government carry out death sentences in Indiana, according to court documents.

The physician has been the target of more than 20 malpractice suits, was barred from practicing at two hospitals and was publicly reprimanded by a state agency for failing to disclose those suits to a hospital where he treated patients, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The newspaper identified the doctor as Alan R. Doerhoff of Jefferson City, Mo.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. of Kansas City, Mo., banned Doerhoff from participating "in any manner, at any level" in lethal injections in Missouri.

The judge said earlier he was "gravely concerned" that the doctor responsible for "mixing the drugs which will be responsible for humanely ending the life of condemned inmates, has a condition [dyslexia] which causes him confusion with regard to numbers."

Federal officials, however, have made Doerhoff part of the execution team at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., according to court papers filed on behalf of several inmates there. All condemned federal prisoners are executed at that prison.

Among those executed there was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh.

Doerhoff's role is to place intravenous lines in condemned inmates, monitor their levels of consciousness and sign death certificates, according to the papers.

Doerhoff did not respond to requests for comment, and Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin declined to comment.


"The federal government chose to rely upon the only person in the country who has been explicitly barred by a federal court from participating in lethal injection executions," said the brief, written under the supervision of Tyler L. Alper, associate director of the death penalty clinic.

Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, an expert on capital punishment methods who is closely following the challenges to lethal injection, said that Gaitan, an appointee of President Reagan, issued his order after "a thorough and detailed examination of Dr. Doerhoff's shocking lack of knowledge of the basic tenets of the drugs and procedures involved in a lethal injection execution, Dr. Doerhoff's admitted challenges with dyslexia that affected his ability to mix and measure the drugs, as well as his record of more than 20 malpractice suits and revoked privileges at two hospitals."

Denno said the revelations about Doerhoff illustrated "the need for transparency in the identity of executioners" so that their records could be scrutinized.

Earlier coverage of Lethal Injection issues in Missouri, including information about Dr. Doerhoff, is linked here.

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