Death Row Inmates Recommend Fentanyl be used as Alternative Drug for Lethal Injection

Beverly Cantrell - February 23, 2022 7:56 pm

On Monday, the federal trial over the state’s execution protocols will begin.

Lawyers for several death row inmates will argue that the state’s use of the drug Midazolam creates an “unacceptable risk of serious pain and undue suffering”.

On top of that, lawyers will try to prove that the state has three readily available alternatives to its current lethal injection protocol.

The three alternative methods for execution the lawyers recommend are as follows:

  • Removal of paralytic and addition of fentanyl: Using fentanyl as a pre-medication and eliminating vecuronium bromide from the lethal injection cocktail
  • Barbiturate plus opioid: A single dose of pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, with a predose of an analgesic opioid like fentanyl
  • Death by firing squad

Pentobarbital and sodium thiopental had previously been used by the state in executions, but shortages over the last decade have forced the state to look for other drugs like Midazolam.

The shortages of pentobarbital and sodium thiopental came about as the EU and overseas pharmaceutical companies forbade its use in executions.

Oklahoma then became one of the first states in the nation to use Midazolam in its 3-drug cocktail, which ended in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014.

Using fentanyl in an execution cocktail is rare. Nebraska became the first state to use it for the 2018 execution of Carey Moore.

Nevada had previously announced it would possibly use fentanyl in its lethal injection protocol. Nevada has not carried out an execution since 2006 when it used sodium thiopental in its 3-drug cocktail.

It’s unlikely Nevada will use the drug soon. Its current supply of lethal injection drugs expires on February 28th, and multiple petitions are pending in the Nevada Supreme Court, delaying the execution of inmate Zane Floyd.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed court documents that showed the federal government considered using fentanyl for its executions.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has contributed to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. It is a highly potent opioid that can easily cause an overdose.

The drug’s potency has even led the CDC to warn emergency responders, like police officers and firefighters, of the dangers of simply being exposed to the drug.

The federal trial over the state’s lethal injection protocols begins on Monday, February 28th.

This Oct. 9, 2014, file photo shows the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)


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