Thursday, 24 July 2008

Doctor Banned From Executions in Missouri Now In Arizona

From Standdown BLOG :

Doctor Banned From Executions in Missouri Now In Arizona

That's the title of a report in today's Arizona Republic. LINK

A Missouri surgeon who was banned by a federal judge from taking part in capital executions by lethal injection in his home state apparently participated in Arizona's most recent execution.

Dr. Alan Doerhoff is believed to have taken part in the May 22, 2007, execution of Robert Comer, 11 months after Doerhoff's Missouri lethal-injection procedure was ruled unconstitutional and eight months after the physician was prohibited from further executions in Missouri because of questions about his standards and competence.

Doerhoff's signature appears below the flat line of an electrocardiogram tape that recorded Comer's last heartbeats, suggesting that Doerhoff at least monitored the murderer's condition in his final moments.

The doctor's techniques appear to have influenced new Arizona procedures for execution by lethal injection, specifically a practice of administering the killing chemicals through a catheter in the groin instead of through an arm. It's a method that some critics say is too complex and contributes to higher risks of error that could lead to undue suffering.

According to a prominent medical expert on lethal injection, that practice occurs only in the Missouri and federal protocols, which Doerhoff is believed to have influenced or devised. He is known to have participated in executions for those jurisdictions.


The Arizona protocol prescribes injecting three drugs in close succession: sodium thiopental to induce unconsciousness, followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze the condemned person and potassium chloride to stop the heart. The dosages are spelled out in the protocol, and there are stated contingency plans if higher doses are deemed necessary.

Though the American Medical Association states that it is an ethical violation for a physician to participate in lethal injections, the Arizona protocol lists physicians as possible participants in the procedure. To cover their work, state law says that people participating in executions on behalf of the government cannot have their licenses revoked or suspended by state regulatory boards.

Under the supervision of a "medical team leader" appointed by the director of the Department of Corrections, the drugs are administered by six people into two separate ports. One dose of each chemical goes into the person to be executed, the other into a waste bucket so that none of the people injecting the drugs will know if he or she made a fatal injection.

Earlier coverage of Doerhoff is here, here, here, and here.

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