New details are emerging on the botched execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood in Arizona that we discussed earlier. If you recall the horrific scene, Wood took roughly two hours to die. Now it appears that the dosage for the new drugs were way off — requiring the prison to increase the dosage to 25 times what was thought to be necessary.
Wood’s execution was given the green light after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution that had been granted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit held that the state had to disclose the drugs and the executioners to be used in his lethal injection — a ruling that now seems prophetic though the matter is under investigation. Arizona has disclosed it uses a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone as well as the planned dosages. However, it would not reveal information about the manufacturers and suppliers of the drugs or details about the qualifications of the state prison employees assigned to the execution.
The prison gave convicted double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood 50 milligrams each of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone, then injected him with that dose 14 more times during the execution, for a total of 750 milligrams. The execution protocol calls for the initial dose, but the corrections director can authorize a second dose if the prisoner is still alive after two or three minutes
The prison still insists that “[Charles Ryan, director of the corrections department], continually conferred with the IV team, and directed additional midazolam and hydromorphone to be administered ensuring the inmate remained deeply sedated throughout the process, and did not endure pain.”
In three other executions using the sedative midazolam, prisoners were seen gasping for air.
What was particularly striking for me is the reference in these reports that a licensed medical doctor was part of the execution team. The AMA has been clear that doctors must not participate in executions:
Opinion 2.06 – Capital Punishment
An individual’s opinion on capital punishment is the personal moral decision of the individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution. Physician participation in execution is defined generally as actions which would fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) an action which would directly cause the death of the condemned; (2) an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned; (3) an action which could automatically cause an execution to be carried out on a condemned prisoner.
Physician participation in an execution includes, but is not limited to, the following actions: prescribing or administering tranquilizers and other psychotropic agents and medications that are part of the execution procedure; monitoring vital signs on site or remotely (including monitoring electrocardiograms); attending or observing an execution as a physician; and rendering of technical advice regarding execution. In the case where the method of execution is lethal injection, the following actions by the physician would also constitute physician participation in execution: selecting injection sites; starting intravenous lines as a port for a lethal injection device; prescribing, preparing, administering, or supervising injection drugs or their doses or types; inspecting, testing, or maintaining lethal injection devices; and consulting with or supervising lethal injection personnel.
However, it is possible that the doctor was merely part of the team to confirm death, which is allowed under the AMA guidelines. However, that exception also have a condition. The doctor may “certify death, provided that the condemned has been declared dead by another person.” The presence of the doctor (who the state will not name) will increase objections from many about such involvement. If the doctor complied with the AMA rules, he or she stood by and offered no advice or assistance as a man slowly died over the course of two hours in front of the doctor.
Source: New York Times