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Missouri Claims “Finders, Keepers” with Deadly Anesthetic, Finally Gives It Back

Missouri Claims “Finders, Keepers” with Deadly Anesthetic, Finally Gives It Back

Over the objections of doctors and the warnings of the European Union, the state of Missouri recently proposed to execute a death-row inmate using a lethal dose of propofol, a widely used anesthesia drug. Both Missouri and Texas have said that they intend to use propofol for executions as their supply of other drugs used in lethal injections has been running out, as European and Asian companies have refused to sell the drugs out of the fear that they would be used for capital punishment.

Missouri had announced that it would execute Allen Niklasson on October 23 with a lethal dose of propofol. He was convicted of killing three people who had stopped to offer him roadside assistance. The Missouri Department of Corrections had only acquired the drug in the form of 20 50-milliliter vials of Diprivan by mistake last September, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, when Shreveport, Louisiana-based Morris & Dickson (one of 14 U.S. companies licensed to sell propofol) accidentally sent the drug to the Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri, the site of the state’s execution chamber.

Companies licensed to sell propofol in the United States must follow strict guidelines not to send it to correction departments. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Morris & Dickson said that it had experienced a “system failure” and only realized its error in October. A number of efforts by the company and by a representative from Fresenius to have the drugs returned proved unsuccessful, with the Bonne Terre prison’s warden refusing to hand over the propofol on the orders of his superiors.

As of Wednesday, Missouri has agreed to return the mistakenly sent propofol, which it had also planned to use in another execution scheduled on November 20.

Missouri’s eleventh-hour decision to return drugs that its correction department had wrongfully acquired followed several days of pleading by doctors, the drug company, the drug distributor and European officials.

The Missouri Society of Anesthesiologist and national chapters of the Anesthesiologist Association had been pleading to Missouri governor Jay Nixon that propofol not be used in executions. Millions of hospital patients undergoing surgery in U.S. hospitals could have immediately been affected had Missouri proceeded with its plans. Propofol is preferred by anesthesiologists as, compared to other such drugs, it works quickly and patients suffer fewer side effects in waking up.  About 50 million vials of propofol are administered in 15,000 hospitals and clinics in the U.S. every day; it is the drug used in four out of five anesthetic procedures.

89 percent of propofol is manufactured in the E.U., which is strongly opposed to capital punishment and which has set stringent rules about the export of anesthetics to the United States to ensure that they are not used for “capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Markus Loning, Germany’s Human Rights Commissioner, had warned Nixon that proceeding with the execution of Niklasson using propofol “would almost certainly lead to strict export controls” that could lead to shortages of the drug and threaten the health and well-being of U.S. patients.

Due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs, Missouri’s attorney general Christ Koster has previously said that the state wants to revive the use of the gas chamber to execute inmates on death row.  In its statement about returning the propofol that was wrongly sent, the state of Missouri noted that it still has a supply of propofol which “was produced by a domestic manufacturer.”

It is unconscionable that Missouri has jeopardized the health of thousands of Americans to carry out executions. The state’s increasingly desperate search for drugs to use in executions, and its proposal to use other means including the gas chamber, are all the more reason that it (and other states including California and Texas) must ban the death penalty.

 

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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81 comments

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1:55AM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

Mmmm...propofol...michael Jackson's drug isn't it?
If the principle of the death sentence was applied everywhere we would be in trouble! Beat up people who have committed assault, take away property from thieves, rape the rapists! Where does it end? The problem isn't only with taking someone's life to avenge murder (eye for an eye) but it's with the US judicial system which is very corrupt. Eg, how many prisoners on death row are innocent? Or many have been found innocent in recent years? The US Judiciary also has dubious credentials with its plea bargaining' monetary bail and the disproportionate incarceration and executions of people based on their skin colour! It's for the same reason why the US would not export death drugs to China, they also would not want to be complicit in the killing of an innocents.
In Europe the death sentence is seen as barbaric, and only enforced by barbaric peoples such as the Arabs, the Chinese and the Americans.

1:55AM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

Mmmm...propofol...michael Jackson's drug isn't it?
If the principle of the death sentence was applied everywhere we would be in trouble! Beat up people who have committed assault, take away property from thieves, rape the rapists! Where does it end? The problem isn't only with taking someone's life to avenge murder (eye for an eye) but it's with the US judicial system which is very corrupt. Eg, how many prisoners on death row are innocent? Or many have been found innocent in recent years? The US Judiciary also has dubious credentials with its plea bargaining' monetary bail and the disproportionate incarceration and executions of people based on their skin colour! It's for the same reason why the US would not export death drugs to China, they also would not want to be complicit in the killing of an innocents.
In Europe the death sentence is seen as barbaric, and only enforced by barbaric peoples such as the Arabs, the Chinese and the Americans.

1:54AM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

Mmmm...propofol...michael Jackson's drug isn't it?
If the principle of the death sentence was applied everywhere we would be in trouble! Beat up people who have committed assault, take away property from thieves, rape the rapists! Where does it end? The problem isn't only with taking someone's life to avenge murder (eye for an eye) but it's with the US judicial system which is very corrupt. Eg, how many prisoners on death row are innocent? Or many have been found innocent in recent years? The US Judiciary also has dubious credentials with its plea bargaining' monetary bail and the disproportionate incarceration and executions of people based on their skin colour! It's for the same reason why the US would not export death drugs to China, they also would not want to be complicit in the killing of an innocents.
In Europe the death sentence is seen as barbaric, and only enforced by barbaric peoples such as the Arabs, the Chinese and the Americans.

12:07AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

The medical and pharmaceutical communities have withdrawn their cooperation with those administering the death penalty. It's not an accident that the manufacture of propofol has all been moved to Europe, where the vendors all get to tell American customers that it can only be used in the OR, and under strict medical supervision. Doctors and nurses are no longer willing to start IVs in the death chamber, leaving the task to unlicensed and much less skilled techs. When the person to be executed has been an IV drug abuser, is obese, or just has crappy veins, this can, and does, cause real problems.

The states who wish to continue executions will have to go back to all the old fashioned methods - gas chambers (very painful), electric chairs (painful, but not very reliable), firing squads (which require volunteers), and hangings - something requiring a real level of skill that I'm afraid has been largely lost. The SCOTUS is liable to rule the first two methods 'cruel and unusual' any year now, leaving only the last two. How long will the American public support hangings after one goes the way Saddam Hussein's did? I'm guessing decapitations will not win any popularity contests. And really, what could go wrong with firing squads?

11:37AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

Touchy subject

11:07AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

i'm not against the death penalty, just against how much is costs vs. life without parole. these people deserve to be punished, obviously, i don't want them walking around. however, in a lot of circumstances, i think life without parole is a much harsher punishment. death is the easy way out for these criminals, especially since it is just an injection and they go to sleep. locked up 24 hrs. a day for the rest of your life, with absolutely no chance of ever again walking around a park, no chance of ever again taking a hot bath, no chance of ever again going out to a restaurant, no chance of ever again getting to touch the one you love, no chance of freedom WHATSOEVER, now THAT is a just punishment.

8:39AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

The death penalty actually costs much more than keeping someone in prison for life:
States plagued by fiscal woes rethink their stance on the death penalty:
http://www.economist.com/node/13279051

Surely there are other drugs that can be used to make someone OD on purpose. Even some over-the-counter meds will work if the inmate can be convinced to get drunk before taking the drugs.

12:35AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

The name 'propofol' rang a bell and sure enough, it is the one that killed Michael Jackson. It's also used to euthanize animals. http://rt.com/usa/death-row-inmates-drug-cocktail-017/

6:50PM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

I don't believe in the death penalty

6:29PM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

0_0

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