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As Ohio debates lethal injection protocol, national experts raise concerns

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 7:00 AM

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A federal judge's order to extend a moratorium on Ohio's executions until January 2015, comes as some experts say the whole system of lethal injections needs to be reconsidered. ideastream's Sarah Jane Tribble reports.

Ask almost any national expert on lethal injection about the way Ohio decided to execute inmates, and you will find there is much disappointment.  And some don’t hold back.

“You have incompetent people designing a system,” says Dr. David Waisel, an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. “You have incompetent people in the system doing the work. And you have a drug that we don’t know the origin of and you don’t know the quality of. So you put all those together and you’re going to have problems. “

Earlier this year, an Ohio inmate repeatedly gasped and some onlookers say appeared to struggle as it took him nearly 26-minutes to die from a two-drug combination. Arizona used the same combination for an execution last month.

Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School who has studied lethal injection for decades, says states vary in their approach. And there is little understanding as to how the drugs are chosen.

“We don’t know who makes these decision, we don’t know why they make these decision. We often times don’t know where they get these drugs,” Denno says.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Corrections, declined to comment on the specific drugs. But, she says, the department remains committed to carrying out executions in a humane and lawful manner.

Additional Information

“Can Europe End the Death Penalty In America?” by Matt Ford, The Atlantic, Feb. 2014

“After Arizona, here’s a guide to the drugs used in lethal injections,” by Mark Berman, Washington Post, July 24

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