Sunday, October 24, 2010

Challenge to Execution Drug: "Improper Delay Tactic"

Arizona plans to execute Jeffrey Landrigan next week, but his lawyers are arguing that one of the three drugs used for the execution, sodium thiopental, was obtained from an overseas supplier. Therefore, it may be substandard and violate Food and Drug Administration rules for importation.

Shelly Burgess, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A., told the New York Times that imported drugs must go through an approval process before being used in the United States, but added that executions are “clearly not under our purview or authority.”

Kent E. Cattani, an Arizona assistant attorney general, told the Times that the supply of the drug obtained by the state was effective, and noted that the protocol in place involved several methods for determining that the inmate was unconscious before administering the final drug. While an important concern with the administration of powerful anesthetics is that the patient might receive too much, Mr. Cattani explained, “it’s obviously not a consideration here.”

In fact, the amount that is given to inmates is more than 10 times the recommended dose for surgical procedures. “There’s little or no chance that he would regain consciousness,” he told the Times.

The state, in a brief filed last week, declined to identify the source of the drug, citing state confidentiality laws intended to shield those involved in executions from harassment by death penalty opponents. It denied that the drug to be used was substandard, and suggested that the criticism of the drug was an “improper delay tactic.”

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