Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Doctor says prisoners die worse than dogs

AP via Google News
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Lorain Chronicle-Telegram
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hearing Continues Over Lethal Injection
By JOE MILICIA - 4 hours ago

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's lethal injection method was assailed as
unfit for
even household pets by
an anesthesiologist testifying in a case challenging the
constitutionality of
the procedure.

The three-drug cocktail would cause agonizing pain if the anesthetic
properly administered,
and the state's procedure for executions doesn't protect against that
according to an
expert witness hired by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

"The way lethal injection is being done in Ohio does not comport with
what is
being done for
euthanizing of animals," Dr. Mark Heath said Monday. "It falls way
below that

The state will get its turn to present an expert on Tuesday, when Dr.
Dershwitz, an
anesthesiologist from Massachusetts, was expected to testify via video
conference that he believes
the process is humane.

Heath, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University,
it's possible to perform
lethal injection on prisoners in a humane manner, but that Ohio's
method falls
below the standard
for euthanizing household pets.

Heath testified on behalf of Ronald McCloud and Ruben Rivera, who are
accused of
separate murders
and could receive death sentences if convicted. The two men say the
lethal injection
procedure doesn't give the quick and painless deaths required by state

In Ohio, difficulties in recent years with two executions, in which the
execution team struggled to
find suitable veins in inmates' arms, brought complaints that the
method is
unconstitutionally cruel
and unusual. Ohio officials stand by the procedure.

Lethal injections are on hold nationally while the U.S. Supreme Court
a challenge in a case
from Kentucky, which is among the roughly three dozen states, like
Ohio, that
administer three drugs
in succession to sedate, paralyze and kill prisoners.

The major criticism of the three-drug execution procedure is that the
could suffer
excruciating pain from the final two drugs if the executioner
administers too
little anesthetic or
makes mistakes injecting it.

Heath testified that the design of Ohio's death house, where executions
place, is problematic
because the inmate and the person administering the drugs are in
different rooms
separated by a
one-way mirror.

Anesthesiologists always administer drugs while standing next to the
patient so
they can detect if
problems occur, such as a leak or a ruptured vein, Heath said. He also
drugs could go into
tissue instead of a vein.

Other problems that could occur include catheters coming out of veins,
kinks in
the IV tubing and
errors in the mixing of the anesthetic -- sodium thiopental -- which is
sold in
powder form.

During a contentious cross examination from Assistant Prosecutor Tony
Heath testified that he
is personally opposed to the death penalty in whatever form it's
carried out.
Heath, who has testified
about lethal injection in 11 states, also said he has not found an
method for lethal
injection in any state.
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Hosted by
Copyright (c) 2008 The Associated Press.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Doctor says prisoners die worse than dogs

Karen Farkas
Plain Dealer Reporter

Elyria - An animal in Ohio is put to death more humanely than a person
on death
row, says an
anesthesiologist who asserts that the state's lethal injection process
result in an excruciating

"It's complicated, and things can and do go wrong," said Dr. Mark
Heath, who
testified Monday on
behalf of two men charged with aggravated murder. The men want Lorain
Common Pleas
Judge James Burge to declare the death penalty unconstitutional,
arguing that
lethal injection
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

It is the first time in the United States that the issue has been
before the start of a capital-
murder trial, said Jeffrey Gamso, legal director of the American Civil
Union of Ohio. Gamso
is representing Ruben Rivera and Ronald McCloud in the hearing, which
is to
conclude today.

Challenges to lethal injection have been filed in federal courts in
many states,
including Ohio. Heath,
of Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Mark Dershwitz, an
anesthesiologist at the University
of Massachusetts Medical School who will testify for prosecutors today,
testified in a similar case in
Kentucky filed by two death row inmates. That case was heard in January
by the
U.S. Supreme Court,
which is to rule by this summer.

The decision is likely to have no effect in Lorain County, where Burge
is taking
the unusual step of
ruling on a constitutional issue.

The judge was an active participant in Monday's hearing, questioning
Heath from
the bench. Burge
said he was interested in getting a medical view on whether patients
suffer a
painless death, which is
guaranteed by law.

Heath, who has reviewed Ohio's lethal-injection protocol, said that if
an animal
is euthanized, the
veterinarian simply administers a fatal dose of a sleep-inducing

If an inmate is put to death, prison staffers in an adjacent room
three drugs through long
tubes connected to his strapped-down arms. If the drugs are mixed and
administered correctly, the
inmate will first go to sleep from anesthesia, his muscles will be
from the second drug and
the final drug will stop the heart.

If not enough anesthesia is administered, Heath said, the inmate would
immense pain from the
heart-stopping potassium chloride but would be unable to express it
because of
the paralyzing

Errors can occur in the mixing of the drugs, the handling of the
syringes, leaks
in tubes or catheters
or problems locating veins, Heath said.

He said a fatal dose of thiopental, the anesthesia, could be
administered alone,
but it would take
longer for death to occur.

Rivera, 37, of Cleveland, who filed the motion, was indicted in August
2004 in
the shooting death of
Manuel Garcia. McCloud, whose death penalty case for the June 2005
death of
Janet Barnard was also
assigned to Burge, asked the judge in 2007 to join Rivera's motion.

Burge will review the testimony and briefs that will be filed before
It's unclear when he will
rule. Both sides have said they are likely to appeal.
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To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
kfarkas@plaind.com, 216-999-5079

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ohio's lethal injection method too cruel for a dog, expert testifies
Brad Dicken | The Chronicle-Telegram

ELYRIA -- There's a humane way to execute criminals, but the state of
hasn't found it yet, an
anesthesiologist testified Monday in the first day of a hearing on the
constitutionality of the state's
lethal injection process.

"I don't think any animal, be it a human being, a dog or a cat, should
subjected to this protocol,"
said Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical
Center in
New York City and a
nationally recognized expert on lethal injection.

Veterinarians won't use the lethal injection method used in Ohio when
euthanizing animals, a
warning sign that there are problems with the process, according to
Heath, who
is a death penalty

County Common Pleas Judge James Burge is holding the unprecedented
hearing and
will decide
whether the state's execution method is quick and painless as required
by Ohio
law and if it can
withstand the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Heath said the state's lethal injection process would be humane if it
administered correctly, but
there aren't any assurances that something won't go wrong.

The state's execution team has two trained emergency medical
technicians and a
third member that
the state has refused to disclose the full medical training of --
although it
isn't a doctor, according
to state officials.

Those three place the shunts in a condemned inmate's arms and then send
three-drug cocktail
into the prisoner's veins.

Regardless of the training the three receive, it is not a guarantee
that the
inmate won't suffer, Heath
said. Training, he said, doesn't always equate to skill or experience,
especially when the drugs are
being administered from another dimly lit room and pumped into the
death chamber
where the
condemned prisoner is strapped to a table.

"Doing it that way substantially increases the risk of a major problem
occurring," Heath said.

Heath said he wouldn't attempt to put a patient under anesthesia unless
he was
next to the patient.
Veterinarians likewise wouldn't euthanize an animal unless they were
"at the
bedside," he said.

Even trained anesthesiologists who regularly put people under can make
despite their
extensive knowledge and state-of-the art technology, Heath said.

Patients sometimes awake during a surgery, for instance, but cannot
move, he

"Patients say, 'I felt every cut,' " he said. "They're locked in. They
have no
way of communicating that
they're awake."

The same thing could happen in a botched execution, Heath said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said that while Heath may
believe an
anesthesiologist is the
only one qualified to administer the lethal drugs correctly, most
doctors refuse
to participate in

"It's a catch-22," Cillo said. "The state needs an anesthesiologist,
but no
anesthesiologist will

But Heath said a survey showed that about 20 percent of doctors
nationwide would
be willing to do

Critics of lethal injection contend that if the first drug in the
process, a
sedative, isn't administered
correctly, condemned prisoners would slowly be suffocated as the
second drug
paralyzed them.

The third drug, which stops the heart, is "notoriously painful," Heath
said, and
would be felt by an
inmate if the sedative didn't work properly.

Although the three drugs together could be painful if used improperly,
said the sedative alone
would be enough to kill a human by eventually causing the person
injected with
it to stop breathing.

Cillo said it would take longer if the state relied solely on the
sedative; the
other two drugs speed up
death in a condemned prisoner.

During Cillo's sometimes-heated cross-examination, Heath refused to
name other
drugs that would
cause a person's heart to stop in a less painful manner than the one
used in lethal

Even after Cillo and Burge rephrased the question and asked him what
drugs he
would be especially
careful administering to his patients, Heath refused to answer --
saying it
would violate medical
ethics and could be construed as offering advice on how to execute

The hearing before Burge came about from challenges of the lethal
process filed by Ruben
Rivera and Ronald McCloud -- two murder suspects who could face
execution if
convicted in two
separate murders.

The hearing resumes today, when an expert for the state is expected to
via a video conference
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Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or

Rev. Mr. George W. Broos J.D.
Flossmoor, IL. 60422

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