Ohio Delays All 2015 Executions As It Tries to Find Drugs

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by ActionableMango, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #1
    Ohio Delays All 2015 Executions As It Tries to Find Drugs

    I don't intend this to turn into a debate about whether or not executions should be legal. There are a million discussions on the Internet about that already, and that's best left for a forum like PRSI. I posted here because this topic is a current event here in the USA and I have a burning question that I haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer to.

    Basically, I don't understand why so many states are having difficulty finding a successful "drug cocktail" to be used for lethal executions. To be clear, I'm 100% familiar with the typical reason stated in the reported stories, which is that drug companies either don't make these specific drugs any more, or are unwilling to sell them to the state because they know they will be used for that purpose.

    However, that reason doesn't mesh well with me given other facts. For example, there are states that have "dignified death" laws that allow us to end a life, voluntarily, using some sort of drug cocktail. I assume the drug cocktail for voluntary end of life would be humane and effective. So why don't the states just use that? Why are they trying all new, untested and weird drug combos that result in inhumane and botched executions?

    Also, aren't there many, many painkillers that the states have access to that result in death from overdose? Why not inject a lethal dose of morphine?

    Does anyone know? I'm looking for a factual answer, or even some sound theories, but not a debate on the merits of executions in general. Like I said, there are already many other places to debate that.
     
  2. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #2
    Because the drug manufacturers won't sell it to the state knowing it will be used in executions.

    The warden can't just go to Walgreens and pick up the drugs used for assisted suicide.
     
  3. Ganesha macrumors regular

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    #3
    Part of the could be the exact wording of the laws. For example, NC has the following.

    You can take this to mean you cannot legally perform executions in any other manner. If there is a chemical that isn't a barbiturate or paralytic agent that will reliably cause death you can't use it.
     
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #4
  5. ActionableMango thread starter macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #5
    Yes, the drug manufacturers stopped selling the classic drug cocktail that was used for executions. It was easy to stop selling it because executions was the only use for that specific drug cocktail.

    On the other hand, morphine and similar drugs are used in huge quantities as a pain killer in state hospitals. The state certainly has access to morphine. That's the whole point of my post.

    Good point, but every single account I've read of dignified death was a drug injection.
     
  6. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #6
    The thing is each state that has the death penalty has in their laws the exact procedures that are (supposed) to be used. Switching the protocol, procedure, or drugs (or their procurement) used would require a rewriting of the law and that is a black hole of legislation that no sane representative would want to wade into.

    OK honestly should be in big trouble seeing as the last few executions were completely botched AND they didn't follow their own procedures...which amounts to experimenting on humans, which clearly violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    Hell, Texas was flat out committing fraud to obtain the chemicals they use by procuring them from a compounding pharmacy (what a legal loophole that is!) under the guise that it was a prison hospital that was buying them....when that prison hasn't had a hospital in decades.

    The whole situation is a *****how.
     
  7. AX338 macrumors regular

    AX338

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    #7
    Where does DIGNITAS get its drugs from.

    Watching a documentary that included someone taking their own life it just seems a small egg cup full of drink and they are away.

    Wonder if you can get this on the 'Dark Web'?
     
  8. sim667 macrumors 65816

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    #8
  9. Lord Blackadder, Mar 10, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #9
    The vast majority of qualified medical professionals (not just doctors) want nothing to do with executions. The pharmaceutical industry also distances itself from capital punishment (think of what that would do to a brand).

    As a result, it's very hard to come up with an easy to acquire, reliably (and humanely) lethal drug cocktail and even harder to find a competent medical team to administer it.

    What you end up with are shady apothecaries whipping up shady execution cocktails, lawmakers who know nothing about medicine and biology proposing new execution methods and pretty much the bottom of the barrel when it comes to execution medical teams.
     
  10. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #10
    Excellent post and spot on.

    Since 2011, under EU law, there has been an EU ban on exporting certain medicinal products used (solely) for capital punishment, as the European Union disapproves of capital punishment in all circumstances and, as part of its stated policy, works for its abolition worldwide. This means that any pharmaceutical company which operates in the EU must comply with this law, or sanctions - including quite hefty fines - can be imposed on them under European law.

    I don't know the state of the pharmaceutical industry in the US, but I rather that, historically, imagine that many of the required chemical compounds had been imported from European sources, a route that is now legally completely closed to them.

    Thus, having run out of what they had managed to stockpile, they find themselves now in something of a dilemma.

    Therefore, they need to develop a domestic pharmaceutical industry themselves which can manufacture the necessary chemical compounds, as such seems to have presented difficulties in the US. (However, such companies may find it difficult to operate legally in Europe, were they to engage in such R&D).

    Or, failing that, they need find an alternative supplier in a developing country, where pharmaceutical standards are sufficiently high that the compounds will not contravene legislation on torture and human rights, but at the same time, where cultural attitudes to the use of capital punishment are sufficiently in accordance with those found in some of the more enthusiastic regions of the US for the application of this policy.

    Or, they can investigate the possibility of using other forms of capital punishment, assuming that they can argue that these will not be classed as torture, or will not demand a high price or psychological toll on those actually tasked with physically implementing them.

    As Lord Blackadder has already pointed out, the vast majority of qualified medical personnel (and the vast majority of people who work in the whole area of development of pharmaceutical products) do not want to or wish to have anything to do with executions.

    What the US is now finding is that international distaste for capital punishment in Europe - expressed through legal means, such as the absolute prohibition of the export of licences drugs used solely for this purpose - is having an effect on how public policy is enacted in the US in a way that diplomatic or political initiatives, or street demonstrations, never had.
     
  11. ActionableMango thread starter macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #11
    I understand everything you're saying, but I don't feel like it addresses my question. If a simple OD of morphine will kill someone (or whatever it is we use for physician assisted suicide/death with dignity), why not just use that?

    In other words, why are shady apothecaries whipping up all kinds of shady execution cocktails that cause all kinds of problems, when we already know what works, is humane, and cannot be blocked because it's not used exclusively for executions?
     
  12. Scepticalscribe, Mar 11, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #12
    Because it may not be legal under that state's laws to use it for execution, (as opposed to assisted suicide) and if they try to use it in such a manner, they will be breaking their own laws. In other words, to attempt the use of that drug (say, morphine) for this purpose is probably illegal.

    State laws concerning how state executions may be carried out tend to be very tightly framed, and precisely defined, because of the potential for future abuse.

    If the state is allowed to carry out executions, in the western world, this is very tightly regulated and can only be done in accordance with a law that defines precisely under what circumstances the state can carry out such executions and how exactly it can do so.

    Even in the Middle Ages, in places such as England, the means by which people were executed by the State was regulated strictly by law, (and calibrated finely by social class).

    Moreover, given the polarised positions and emotions generated by any discussion of the death penalty and state execution, changing the laws so that whatever drugs that are available can be used for state executions will be fraught will difficulty.
     
  13. v3rlon macrumors 6502

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    #13
    Its a conspiracy. They want to make lethal injection impossible so having those sentenced to death fight it out in a series of brutal games on pay per view becomes an acceptable alternative.

    ESPN
    in association with
    Pfizer
    and the
    Texas Department of Corrections
    present

    THE RUNNING MAN

    Live in UHD
     
  14. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #14
    It can still be blocked. It's not like you can walk into Walgreens and pick up some morphine. Access to stuff like that is tightly controlled, and the companies that sell morphine to doctors and hospitals can still refuse to sell it to prisons.
     
  15. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #15
    The short answer is, I don't know the precise details. But Scepticalscribe and yg17 are probably right - in the first place, execution methods are regulated by law. Second, you have to state a reason to buy most controlled substances, and unless the states choose to lie about what they are doing with their drugs, they are going to have to state the purpose as "executions." And I suspect many pharmaceutical companies are pretty squeamish about that.

    It's possible that an American pharmecutical company will decide to step up and start manufacturing execution drug cocktails and sell them to states, but it's not going to be very profitable (low-volume) - and it's going to attract a LOT of press, most of it negative. Not to mention that the EU would probably ban them from exporting to Europe or assess huge fines. Big Pharma does't like people dying - they prefer chronically sick people they can sell drugs to for the rest of their lives. Killing somebody is pretty bad business, even when it's state-sanctioned.

    And even if that were to happen, you still have the problem of medical expertise - there is a reason states have a hard time assembling a competent execution medical team. For all that many Americans vocally support the death penalty, when it comes down to it few sane, well-adjusted people with medical training are actually willing to execute people. There isn't a crowd of volunteers beating down doors for those jobs.
     
  16. ActionableMango thread starter macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #16
    I've thought about that myself, and others have mentioned it too. It seems like a reasonable guess, but the fact that states are coming up with all manner of crappy drug cocktails over and over again seems to directly contradict the theory that there is very tight regulation specifying the drugs that are allowed to be used.
     
  17. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #17
    Well, if the law is drawn similarly to

    then there is still the opportunity to come up with suspect drug cocktails that fit within the bounds of the law. I don't see the contradiction you do.
     
  18. ActionableMango thread starter macrumors 604

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    #18
    My apologies to Ganesha, I somehow missed that quote until you reposted it just now. Thanks.
     
  19. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #19
    There is very tight regulation of how lawful executions can be carried out: It is just that some of these states in the United States are seeking to circumvent their own laws in what they argue is the interest of carrying out what they say are lawful executions.

    This is a short sighted and foolish policy, not least because it will serve to undermine respect for that same law that they claim to uphold.

    The point is that if you - as a state , or legal and lawful authority, an authority that has the right - under law - to hold the monopoly on legitimate force (i.e. the right to bear arms as a police officer), and the right, under the law, to pass and carry out the death penalty, you are obliged to do this in a lawful - or lawfully prescribed - manner.

    To seek to circumvent your own laws - even while claiming to uphold those same laws - makes a mockery of the whole thing, and also serves to further undermine the moral and philosophical foundations of your position.

    Nevertheless, I do find it striking that the US seems unable to produce these cocktails domestically. This is not just an example of the limitations or problems of the pharmaceutical industry, it strikes me that it may be more along the lines of a choice that has been made, a choice, that is both financial and philosophical.

    As Lord Blackadder has already said, the pharmaceutical industry would far prefer to invent or develop drugs that cure people, rather than ones that kill people. That is its primary raison d'être. That is also the psychological default setting, if you like, of those who work within it. Developing drugs with the purpose of seeking to kill people (or put people to death) will not win plaudits, awards, or funding. Nor will it generate much by way of profit or investment.

    And, if a company were to do this, and manufacture such products for the tiny demand for these products within the domestic US market, not only would their products be banned in Europe, but EU countries and companies could not legally do business with them.

    Moreover, the public and press outcry would be considerable; in PR terms, in the world of the pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing drugs to kill will not win you much by way of consumer goodwill.

    However, just this evening I note that Utah has just passed a law which will allow for the reinstatement of execution by firing squad should it prove impossible to obtain the desired chemical cocktail of drugs.
     
  20. Lord Blackadder, Mar 11, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

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    #20
    Ammunition is a lot cheaper than drugs. Still, in Utah Republicans rule the legislature - the fact that they are willing to revert to such an old-fashioned method rather than legalize a wider variety of lethal drugs is rather odd (again, I'm not sure what is actually available so this is merely speculation). Is it nostalgia???

    I'm afraid we may see Republicans proposing some increasingly bizarre execution methods as a way around the drug bans.

    Or, we may start sourcing drugs from places (Russia, China) far less concerned with human rights objections. That would be pretty ironic.
     
  21. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

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    #21
    Oh, man, thanks for that; I needed a giggle!:p
     
  22. Scepticalscribe, Mar 11, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

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    #22
    Well, I doubt that it is nostalgia (though that is funny).

    However, I could see a morally murky situation evolving whereby some of the states more enthusiastic about the use of the death penalty could seek to source drugs from dubious sources (Russia, and China, - exactly the sort of countries with decent pharmaceutical industries along with few inhibitions about use of the death penalty, and exactly the sort of countries that they profess to detest), the path to the development of such drugs in the US itself may be a lot more challenging.

    This is because firstly, one must state what the drugs are to be used for (the difficulties of that have been referred to in a number of earlier posts).

    Secondly, in order to get dosages and compounds of such lethal drugs absolutely right, experimentation of a sort that is deeply dehumanising, morally repugnant and profoundly unsavoury - who, or what, would one carry out such experimentation on in order to obtain the necessary data? - and - more to the point - quite clearly illegal (in that it would most certainly contravene the sort of international anti-torture laws, statutes and conventions that the US has already signed up to if carried out on US soil - and why else did rendition and torture occur outside of the jurisdiction of the mainland US?) would have to be carried out.

    Quite clearly, even the the most rabid members of the Republican party would have enormous difficulty in justifying this, or standing over it, should such a story ever come out. It would be politically and morally indefensible. Indeed, it would be tantamount to political suicide.
     
  23. ActionableMango thread starter macrumors 604

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    #23
    Actually he implied they'd rather treat people, which is very different than curing people:

    But that's another subject entirely and you make a lot of excellent points in your post.
     
  24. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #24
    Treat and/or cure. While profit is undoubtedly the driving motivation in much pharmaceutical research and development - not to mention investment - (hence treating is more of a primary goal than curing, which may serve to lead or redundancy), many in the pharmaceutical professions would also admit to a degree of idealism if asked to describe their motivations.

    Professionally, psychologically, culturally (not to mention historically) the pharmaceutical industry has seen itself on the side of the healing professions, not the killing ones and that is a key distinction in this particular discussion.
     

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