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Incoming Administration Should Make Thiopental or Pentobarbital Available

Another controversy relating to the execution of Ronald Smith concerns use of the three-drug protocol with midazolam (Versed) as the first drug.  This is the same protocol that was at issue in Glossip v. Gross in 2015.  Kent Faulk of the Birmingham News reports:

During the 34-minute execution at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Smith heaved and coughed for about 13 minutes and underwent two consciousness tests to make sure he couldn't feel pain.
We have known for some time that the single-drug method with thiopental or pentobarbital is the way to go.  Texas has done dozens of these without incident.  The incoming administration should take steps to make sure the states can obtain these drugs, both to reduce the chance of an actually inhumane execution and to ensure that justice is not defeated by a complete unavailability.

There are a number of possible routes to a fix.  The erroneous decision that prevents states from importing thiopental from willing sellers overseas could be abrogated by statute or taken up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The government could itself  import the drug or the ingredients from which it is compounded and distribute them to the states.  A government entity with the capability to do so might manufacture the drug.  One way or another, a permanent fix to this problem should be a priority.


Hanging done properly is a painless execution, although walking up the steps of a gallows must be a harrowing experience. Once the trap door opens, if the hangman did his job correctly, death is so instantaneous it is a most humane way to carry out an execution. As for the fright felt before the drop, well isn’t that what a vicious killer deserves? In most cases it’s not near as awful as what the killer made his victim suffer.

"Done properly" is a problem. If not, it can torturous to the inmate, horrifying to the observers, and a huge PR problem for the death penalty.

There really isn't any way to cause a torturous death by injecting pentobarbital. Breathing difficulties may cause sounds that witnesses misinterpret, but they should be educated in advance.

Then there is my preferred method, hypoxia with a neutral gas. As I have noted before on this blog, I know that hypoxia is painless from personal experience in Air Force flight training.

I appreciate the perspective of those who advocate hanging, but I think we should leave the noose in museums.

Oh, and since Yahoo doesn't provide a recognizable user name, please adopt a "handle" and "sign" your comments in the text. That way everyone can see which comments come from the same commenter. Thanks.

Our Webmaestra is diligently working away on replacement software for the blog, but it's not there yet.

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