Ohio Plans To Use Untested, Unregulated Drugs In Execution

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The European Union has banned export of drugs for executions on ethical grounds. Several prominent drug-makers have refused to permit the drugs for use in executions. And the U.S. company that once provided a source of drugs for the death penalty stopped making it.

But that hasn’t deterred states committed to executing those on death row. In the latest move to keep executions moving, Ohio plans to use a dose of two drugs not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to execute a man next month, even though no one knows how it will go. Lawyers for death row inmate Ronald Phillips say the state delayed the announcement so long that they have little time to investigate the appropriateness of the drugs before the November 14 date for execution. The combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, has never been used to kill an inmate.

Earlier this month, Florida also used a new drug to implement the death penalty. It used the sedative midazolam to execute death row inmate William Happy. Associated Press reporter Brendan Farrington watched the execution, and said it took longer than usual — about ten minutes — for the inmate to close his eyes, and significantly longer for him to stop moving. In July, Missouri’s attorney general told a court it might resort to the gas chamber if he could not gain access and court consent to execution drugs. And other states have resorted to making their own small-batch drugs through compounded pharmacies, also not regulated by the FDA.

All of these tactics have raised questions about medical ethics, compliance with the law, and humanity, and have sparked new legal challenges in most of the cases, many of which have been successful.