Ohio First State in the Nation to Change Lethal Injection Execution Method to Single Drug - What Are the Consequences?
Last week, the State of Ohio announced that it was changing its method of execution from a lethal injection involving three drugs (sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride) to a single injection of the drug sodium thiopental.
Ohio changes to a single-drug form of execution after its failed execution of Romell Broom on September 15, 2009
You'll recall the travesty of Mr. Broom's attempted capital punishment -- as we described here, Romell Broom suffered for two and one-half hours on the gurney that day:
Romell Broom was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of Tryna Middleton by the State of Ohio and last Tuesday, Mr. Broom was strapped to a gurney and his execution by lethal injection began.
The 2+ Hour Failed Execution
Except they couldn't find a vein in which to insert the needle. They tried his arms. They tried his legs. Broom lay there, tied to the table by long leather straps covering the length of his body. Imagine this being done to you.
Broom lay there for OVER TWO HOURS while lab techs tried to kill him. They failed. Broom went back to his Death Row cell, and his execution was "rescheduled." The Governor of the State of Ohio was contacted about the problem and he ordered a one week "postponement."
According to the New York Times, Broom "sobbed with pain". And afterwards, not only did Ohio Governor Strickland order that Romell Broom's execution be stopped, but the Ohio federal court issued a stay of his execution after hearing Broom's attorneys argue that a second try at executing Broom would be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
The Consequences of Ohio's New Single Drug Execution Method
Proponents are arguing that this single, massive dose of sodium thiopental is merciful and that it's going to be the NextBigThing for death penalty proponents, since its success will hamper constitutional arguments against execution by lethal injection under the three-drug approach.
And those are serious and substantive arguments, as we've outlined here in a three-part series of articles. No one can truly say that a paralyzed person, laying on that gurney, isn't suffering because they are incapable of communicating what they are experiencing. The "drug cocktail" is simply horrific.
Ohio is so confident in its new execution method -- the same type of killing method that vets use on dogs and cats -- that it's planning on having the new protocol in place by the end of this month, and there's talk that Ohio will want to try out its new One-Drug Injection procedure on Kenneth Biros, who is scheduled for execution on December 8, 2009, subject to a temporary stay.
What has yet to be determined, however, is how this massive dose of this single drug will truly work on a human being. What works on dogs and cats might not be as merciful, fast, and painfree on humans. We simply don't know, and undoubtedly there will be medical testimony with the appropriate medical experts providing their opinions on this procedure before Ken Bios or anyone else is subject to Ohio's new killing option. Or there should be.
And, what about if the Ohio one drug option doesn't work as swiftly and cleanly as its proponents suggest it will? Well, they've got a backup -- two more drugs that would then be injected into the condemned, there on the gurney: the executor will shoot in massive amounts of hydromorphone and midalzolam.
None of This Makes a Bit of Difference in the Broom Situation
With Ohio's big announcement, death penalty proponents are gleefully rubbing their hands together at the thought that the remaining 35 states using lethal injection as their primary execution method can now circumvent all number of death penalty appeals based upon the cruel and inhuman nature of the three-drug cocktail, just by adopting the Ohio One Drug method.
Well, it's not as simple as that. First, this method needs to be vetted by medical experts before a condemned person is used as a guinea pig here, nevermind those back-up syringes filled with hydromophone and midazolam.
Second, has no one stopped to think that the answer is more complex than this? Romell Broom suffered great agony on September 15th not because of the type of drug used upon him, or the number of drugs selected to be injected into his body, but because they could never find a way to successfully insert the needle.
Two Points to Ponder
So, point one, the Ohio One Drug "innovation" doesn't resolve the Romell Broom travesty and it's fascinating to watch Death Penalty proponents distract themselves from the cruelty of that day in their excitement over this new find.
Point two: is anyone out there thinking that executing men and women in the same way that that vets euthanize animals (even if they are beloved pets) is just plain wrong? When did we forget about human dignity?