Untrained Personnel and Lack of Transparency
Lethal injection with the three-drug protocol presents significant, foreseeable, predictable, and preventable risks of pain and suffering.
Its administration is a complicated procedure that requires placing the inmate in a deep anesthetic state with the first drug to ensure that he does not consciously experience paralysis and asphyxiation or the excruciating pain of cardiac arrest caused by the second and third drugs. Personnel responsible for administering lethal injections must perform a series of medical tasks, including inserting IV catheters, mixing and administering drugs, monitoring IV lines, and monitoring the inmate’s level of consciousness. An error at any step could lead to a torturous execution. For this reason, states must use trained, qualified personnel to perform lethal injection executions in order to conform to minimum standards of safe care. Additionally, lethal injection procedures must include measures or checks to ensure that the inmate is sufficiently anesthetized throughout the lethal injection procedure.
While lawsuits across the country have drawn attention to the foreseeable risks of cruel and unusual punishment that departments of correction are ignoring by insisting on using the flawed three-drug protocol, there remains much that is not known about lethal injection. This lack of knowledge results in large part from the shroud of secrecy surrounding lethal injection practices. Departments of Correction regularly rely on executive privilege to maintain the secrecy of lethal injection procedures. They often do not allow public access to the written protocols they follow in administering lethal injections, nor will they reveal how those protocols were developed. Few records are kept that document lethal injections, and those that do exist are not made available to the public or for scrutiny by medical personnel. Thus, states have insulated themselves from revealing that they have failed to protect inmates against the known and foreseeable risks of torturous execution inherent in their lethal injection procedures, just as the paralytic effect of the pancuronium bromide prevents the public from knowing how many inmates were conscious and experienced excruciating pain during the execution.