Friday, August 19, 2011

Virginia uses epilepsy drug to kill inmate

Lundbeck, a Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer, makes an epilepsy drug that has become the go-to drug for states looking to kill inmates. Pentobarbital is used to treat severe cases of epilepsy. Lately it has become the sedative of choice in the lethal cocktail used to kill.

Lundbeck has placed strict controls on the distribution of pentobarbital to prevent states from using it as part of their lethal injection protocols. Despite Lundbeck's objections to the misuse of its drug, Virginia officials (using pentobarbital acquired before the stricter controls were placed on it) gladly pumped it into the bloodstream of Jerry Jackson on Thursday night.
"We're in the business to improve people's lives, so the use of pentobarbital to end people's lives contradicts everything that we're in business to do," Matt Flesch, a US spokesman for Lundbeck, told the BBC
While proponents of state-sanctioned murder claim that pentobarbital works just as well as sodium thiopental which was discontinued by its manufacturer, there have been no studies to determine whether or not pentobarbital induces unconsciousness. Theoretically, the first drug causes the inmate to lose consciousness while the second drug paralyzes him. The third drug then stops the inmate's heart.

But if the first drug doesn't induce unconsciousness, the inmate remains alert throughout the entire procedure, enduring great pain as his muscles are paralyzed and his heart is stopped. Since the second drug causes paralysis, there is no way of knowing whether the inmate feels any pain as he cannot move his body nor cry out.

It's bad enough that doctors and nurses volunteer to violate the oaths they took to do no harm in the name of state-sanctioned murder -- but to turn around and use a drug that is manufactured to improve the lives of people suffering from epilepsy makes it so much worse.

If Lundbeck is successful in preventing state prisons from obtaining supplies of pentobarbital, the death machine in this country may (finally) be shut down for good. And how wonderfully ironic would it be that is was the free market that dictated the end of the death penalty?

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