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First Inmate Put to Death With Fentanyl in Nebraska - Carlos Gamino
News from Attorney Carlos Gamino

States on the Lookout for New Lethal Injection Cocktails

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By Carlos Gamino

States with the death penalty, which Wisconsin doesn’t have, are continuing to look for new drug cocktails for executions – and they’re using drugs that were never intended to be used in any such way.

In mid-August, the state of Nebraska executed a death row inmate by using fentanyl, a strong opioid that’s often used to treat pain in terminally ill patients and is commonly blamed for opiate overdoses all over the country. Two fentanyl manufacturers tried to stop the execution through a lawsuit, saying their reputations would be damaged if the drug was used – but because the state of Nebraska refused to identify what manufacturer made the fentanyl it planned to use, they were unable to do so.

Suppliers from all over the world have raised objections about their drugs being used in executions, but states are turning to more unorthodox methods. In Nebraska, for example, the cocktail used to execute Carey Dean Moore in August, contained diazepam (often sold as Valium), fentanyl, a muscle relaxer called cistracurium besylate, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Nebraska was the first state to use fentanyl in its execution cocktail, but it likely won’t be the last. In Nevada, death row inmate Scott Dozier – sentenced to die for two murders – was supposed to be executed using fentanyl before Moore was. His execution, however, was stayed because among several other objections, Alvogen, manufacturer or one of the drugs the state intends to use against Dozier, has accused state officials of “misleading justices about drug expiration dates to get the court to rush a decision toward what the company calls a misapplication of its product.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think that states should experiment with new execution drug cocktails, or is it dangerous (and in some cases, unconstitutional) to take those types of risks? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino