An apparently botched execution in the USA has seen a prisoner experience ‘incredible pain’ before dying, exactly as a Harvard medical professor had warned years earlier.
Prisoner feels ‘whole body burning‘
The last words of a prisoner executed in Oklahoma this month suggest that the anaesthetic used may have failed to take effect – leaving him experiencing “burning” pain, according to UK legal charity, Reprieve.
Michael Lee Wilson, who was executed on 9 Jan 2013, said “I feel my whole body burning” before he died. http://tinyurl.com/kcrvomc
A Harvard university professor of anaesthesia, Dr David Waisel, had previously warned that should the anaesthetic stage of a lethal injection fail, the prisoner would feel “the incredibly burning pain” of the drug used to stop their heart, potassium chloride.
The US state of Oklahoma continues to use a three drug execution protocol, consisting of an anaesthetic – in this case pentobarbital – a paralysing agent, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride in supposedly ‘humane’ executions. However, as pharmaceutical companies have refused to supply pentobarbital to executioners, the state, like many others in the USA, has been forced to search for alternative supplies.
Given that US executioners have no access to sources of pentobarbital approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Oklahoma must either be using expired supplies of the drugs, or pentobarbital made by a small-scale, low-tech compounding pharmacy, Reprieve says.
“Compounding pharmacies in the USA have been dogged by scandal in recent years, notably when fungal contamination of one such pharmacy’s products caused a serious outbreak of meningitis,” says Reprieve.
‘Incredible burning pain’
Warning against the use of pentobarbital in Florida in 2011, Dr Waisel warned: “If it did not work, [the prisoner] would feel the incredibly burning pain” of the lethal, heart-stopping drug, potassium chloride. http://tinyurl.com/muqetsv
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: “The disturbing echo between the prisoner’s words and those of a Harvard expert strongly suggest that this was a badly botched execution, which caused considerable suffering.
“This is evidence of the callous irresponsibility of US executioners, who are engaged in a desperate struggle to kill by any means. It is shameful and unconstitutional that states such as Oklahoma are resorting to experimental, DIY drugs or expired anaesthetics, without thinking of the extreme pain they may cause.”
Civil Liberties Australia notes that just 18 states in the USA are free of the death penalty. In a society where it is estimated up to 5% of verdicts may be miscarriages of justice, killing convicted people is a life lottery run by courts, judges and governments.