Midazolam is the first drug in Oklahoma's lethal cocktail. It is a powerful sedative that is supposed to render the inmate unconscious prior to the paralytic being injected. After the paralytic is injected the final drug - the one that is supposed to stop the inmate's heart - is injected. In last month's botched execution the inmate Clayton Lockett was not rendered unconscious and prison officials blocked witness' view of the execution after it became apparent that something was seriously wrong.
Texas currently uses pentobarbital - obtained from unknown sources - in its one-drug execution protocol. Should Texas wish to use midazolam once its limited supply of pentobarbital is exhausted, a new two- or three-drug protocol would need to be drawn up.
“I think the whole method is problematic,” said Kenneth Williams, a criminal law professor who teaches a class on capital punishment at South Texas College of Law in Houston. “I think it was ironic that the inmates there were fighting the process because they thought the new drugs were problematic, and they turned out to be right."Midazolam was also the drug Ohio used in an execution earlier this year in which the inmate took 26 minutes to die (though Ohio uses a much larger dose than Oklahoma did). Ohio uses a two-drug protocol.
The governor of Oklahoma has instituted an investigation into what went wrong with the Lockett execution. However, since the investigation is being conducted out of the governor's office, I anticipate the investigators will blame the problems on Mr. Lockett's veins and not on the drug. The purpose of the investigation is to make the execution protocol more "efficient" not to determine whether the protocol violates the Eighth Amendment.
The drug inventory turned over to defense attorneys challenging the state's practices in carrying out the death penalty indicate that Texas is holding vials of hydromorphone and propofol, in addition to midazolam. Propofol, if you'll remember, is the drug that caused the death of Michael Jackson. The American health care company Hospira was the source of the drugs.
According to the company's website, midazolam is currently out of stock.
Interestingly enough, there is no mention on the company's website about Hospira supplying death drugs to state prison systems.
Our vision guides everything we do. "Advancing" focuses on Hospira's progressive, positive and purposeful approach as we look to the future. "Wellness" demonstrates a broad commitment to healthcare, supported by a wide variety of products that help improve the well being of patients around the world. Wellness also refers to the overall well being of our customers, employees, shareholders and communities.Supplying drugs so that Oklahoma can kill inmates doesn't really seem to fit to well into this notion that Hospira is a "wellness" company. Hey, but why let the facts get in the way of the marketing campaign?
Click here for the Texas execution protocol.