Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nevada execution halted over drugs

It would appear to the outside viewer that Nevada has just been caught with its pants down.

Nevada was looking to be the first state to murder an inmate using the synthetic opioid fentanyl. What they didn't count on was the manufacturer of midazolam, Alvgoen, filing suit to halt the execution because the state had used deception to obtain midazolam.

The execution was halted by Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.

Alvogen has been very vocal in its opposition to the use of its drugs in executions. The state obtained midazolam after its stocks of diazepam expired. And, just to demonstrate that its acquisition of midazolam was no fluke, last year Nevada refused to return unused doses of fentanyl and diazepam to Pfizer on request.

Alvogen claims in its lawsuit that Nevada got its hands on the drug illegally "despite and clear and unambiguous prior warning" that the company did not want its drug used for executions. What does it say when a state is only too willing to lie, cheat and steal to obtain a drug? Officials did this believing there was no way their actions would become known to the public. 

This marks only the second time a drug manufacturer has filed suit to prevent one of its drugs from being used in an execution. The first suit, filed in Arkansas, failed.

But the larger problem is whether or not the various toxic cocktails states have chosen to use (largely because of drug manufacturer objections to the use of their drugs in killing people), are, for lack of a better term, humane.

The Nevada legislature approved a cocktail involving midazolam, fentanyl and the paralytic agent, cisatracurium. At a hearing last November, a district court judge told the state they could use midazolam and fentanyl, but not cistracurium. The concern is that cistracurium induces paralyis in the inmate and would mask any pain he was feeling as he suffocated. Of course there is also the issue of whether fentanyl is an appropriate drug since it has never been used in an execution.

And then there's midazolam. If you recall the botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma you will remember that midazolam was the drug of choice. Inmates strapped to the gurney have complained about a burning sensation after being injected with the drug.

But, back to Nevada for a second. After the district court ruling, the state appealed to the State Supreme Court which held - on procedural grounds, not pharmacological grounds, that the state was free to use the three-drug cocktail approved by the legislature.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of states who will do whatever it takes to kill inmates in the name of the people. The death penalty is slowly grinding to a halt. Soon there will come a day when there are no drugs available and no pharmacists are willing to play footsy with the state-sponsored killing machine.

I just hope everyone can see the hypocrisy for what it is.

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