Ohio Unveils New Single Drug Execution Protocol

After various prior scandals involving botched executions (and a recently cancelled execution), Ohio has introduced a new execution protocol and drug — abandoning the traditional three-drug cocktail for a single dose execution.

The widely used three-drug cocktail was designed to minimize pain by inducing unconsciousness followed by death through paralysis of respiratory muscles and cardiac arrest. It begins with sodium thiopental, a short action barbiturate that induces unconsciousness in a few seconds. The second drug is pancuronium, a non-depolarizing muscle relaxant, that causes complete, fast and sustained paralysis of the skeletal striated muscles, including the diaphragm and respiratory muscles. This is followed by the third drug, potassium chloride which stops the heart causing death by cardiac arrest.

To deliver these drugs, the prison must find a suitable vein and insert an IV drip. That has been a problem in many cases. For a prior column on these problems and the evolution of execution methods, click here. Some experts in Ohio argued that sodium thiopental should be the only drug used and that the other two drugs increase the chance for pain, here.

Ohio will now use a 5-gram dose of sodium thiopental — 2 1/2 times the amount used in the three-injection method. Sodium thiopental is used to euthanize pets. It has also been used to induce comas in some patients.

Ohio is also adopting a new backup procedure that will use a single shot of Dilaudid, a commonly used painkiller.

Convicted killer Kenneth Biros of Northeast Ohio is scheduled for execution next week. However, the adoption of the new drug is likely to trigger an intense round of legal challenges.

For the full story, click here and here.

16 thoughts on “Ohio Unveils New Single Drug Execution Protocol”

  1. Wikipedia says the second “Backup Protocol” used only 40mg of Hydromorphone in Combination with 10mg Midazolam for i.m Use?
    Is this not a little less? A drug addicted inmate can stand this Dosage without dying.

    Anyway – Its not right to kill a Person to show others that ists wrong to kill persons! – this is very paradox.

  2. As a priest on Death Row i really feel that no one wins. I have seen many family’s hurt by the inmates actions, including his own family. Christ died for all I in no way agree with putting a man to death, but it is the law of the land. Please remember that Christ died for all, you and me. Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, and so on. Christ be with you

  3. It is amazing that people worry about the convicted felons pain when administering the death penalty. They caused much more pain for the victim and families than they will ever suffer with a dose of potassium. You could always use a big bolus of propofol as well to knock them out. I think the gas chamber should be brought back to use or possibly the electric chair. It shouldnt be glamourous for a felon to die

  4. Sodium Thiopental, a short-acting barbiturate, as you describe, has been used for more medical uses than you describe. To “euthanize pets” and “induce coma” neglects the over One Billion times (1,000,000,000 !) that thiopental has been used to induce general anesthesia since its discovery in the 1940’s. And that is in the US alone! Hardly is Ohio conducting experimentation on humans.
    It causes a deep “sleep” state to occur within 30-60 seconds; in fact that very loss of consciousness defines the state of general anesthesia. The dose of 5gm used in Ohio is 10-15 times the anesthesia dose (in the typical 100 kg prisoner).

    Sodium pentothal is kind and typical; not cruel and unusual!

  5. “Mike Spindell
    A spectacular advance for humanity! Ohioans should be very proud.”


    Last week a friend and I, both life-long Ohioans, dined at a local restaurant. Our waitress looked exactly like Sarah Palin. It was obvious from her hair style, make-up, and glasses that she purposely set about enhancing her natural physical appearance in order to emulate her heroine. My friend and I made no comment to her regarding her striking resemblance to the ol’ Moose Mother. She performed her waitressing skills well and didn’t quit on us in the middle of our meal so, I guess one could say that her imitation of Palin was not complete.

    As she walked by the bar on her way to the kitchen, a group of well-dressed, professional women seated at the bar yelled out, en masse, “We love you, Sarah”. She acknowledged their admiration with a smile and a wave.

    With so many people like this living in Ohio, do you actually expect any kind of wide-spread civilized thought process infusing the subject of state-sponsored killing?

    A hundred years from now when studying Ohio’s Death Penalty, I imagine the future students of history wondering how citizens of today’s Ohio could approve such barbaric behavior done in their name. Historians of the future will most likely give the same excuse for our actions as historians today give for the citizens of early American slave states … one has to understand the times.

  6. I say Ohio is in the right here. The three drug cocktail is designed to minimize pain, but it simply is unproven whether it minimizes pain at all. They don’t know whether they are injecting enough thiopental to knock the guy out before the third injection of K+ which causes searing, depolarizing pain to spread up through the arm and throughout the body- if you’re conscious enough to feel it. We can’t ASK the guy if he’s totally knocked out because the second injection of the muscle relaxant will paralyze his mouth shut.

    If I commit a violent crime I’m going to Ohio first.

  7. Let me stress that I am against the death penalty in all circumstances.

    That said, I’ve always found it funny the way that the government dances around trying to find humane ways to do the deed when obvious, perfect methods are available, but not used because they are too “messy” or offend people’s delicate sensibilities.

    The key to avoiding pain or suffering, be it physical or psychological, is to destroy the brain as quickly as possible. That’s where all suffering occurs after all. So put the convict in a small bunker, strap a helmet on to his head with four sticks of dynamite attached to it, each wired to separate but synchronized timers, and voila, perfect, pain free execution. It can’t fail. The brain is completely destroyed in less time than it can register a pain impulse. The redundancy of explosives and timers all but guarantees that it works every time.

    But people would find this too “gruesome” as if frying someone in the chair or gassing them to death is nice and clean. If you are going to engage in this barbarism, you shouldn’t be worried about the gore; you’ve put yourself into the killing game, deal with it.

  8. They could save money if they gave the condemned the choice of drinking themselves to death, of course after buying their own “medicine”.

    It would be seen as more humanitarian to those who think the state should not execute.

    And appeals would diminish with the associated costs.

    Ok, it is just a hypothesis at this stage … these things take time.

  9. rc,

    I’m sure someone is counting on a promotion or brownie points because they are instituting a cost saving program by reducing the variety required in their drug cabinet. Right now someone is claiming “incremental cost savings by process improvement” like they were going to balance the budget with this maneuver. Also something to be proud of.

  10. Gosh golly. Gee whiz. What a breakthrough for state sponsored murder. I’ll bet they’re just so proud.

  11. I hear Joe Arpiao is looking to fill bed space. Heck, send em to Texas, where even if there doubt they will be killed. I think the Ohio stiff is a distinction without a difference.

  12. Can we just throw the criminals off a cliff and stop funding BigPharma already? There’s a crisis, you know.

    The human trebuchet could be so useful!

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