Lethal Injection - Ohio's Shame
By Jonathan I. Groner MD, OSU Children's Hospital
April 25, 2007
On the very same day that a scientific article critical of lethal injection was published, the State of Ohio carried a lethal injection execution on James Filiaggi.
The new study, "Lethal injection for execution: Chemical Asphyxiation?" provides compelling evidence that lethal injection is fundamentally flawed. The research shows that the 3 drug cocktail used in lethal injection is essentially a kitchen recipe that was never researched and never examined in any scientific way. As a result, the authors argue, there is the possibility that inmates may look serene but actually suffer an agonizing death due to asphyxiation from paralysis of breathing muscles. Clearly, such a death would be cruel, inhumane, and unconstitutional.
In December, when an execution team in Florida required 34 minutes and two rounds of drugs to produce death in an inmate, pro-death penalty Governor Jeb Bush ordered a moratorium and an investigation. There have been no further executions.
But last May, when an Ohio execution team took nearly 90 minutes, two rounds of drugs, and repeated attempts at IV insertions to kill an inmate (whose moans were heard by media witnesses), then Ohio Governor Taft's response was to do absolutely nothing.
One would think that Governor Ted Strickland, a former maximum security prison psychologist, would be willing to examine lethal injection more carefully than Governor Taft, particularly in view of the recent botched executions. However, Governor Strickland was willing to let Mr. Filiaggi go to his death.
So, yesterday morning, Mr. Filiaggi had IV lines placed in both arms. He was strapped to the execution table, and, after a signal from the warden the lethal drugs flowed into his arms: First thiopental, a barbiturate; then pancuronium bromide, a powerful muscle paralyzing agent; then potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest in large doses.
Mr. Filiaggi, according to eyewitnesses, died peacefully.
But did he?
Jonathan I. Groner MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Trauma Medical Director
700 Children's Drive ED-341
Columbus, OH 43205