Upcoming execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio

January 14, 2014

Dennis McGuire is set to be the first person ever to be executed using an untested combination of drugs which medical experts say could cause him to experience the ‘agony and terror’ of the medical phenomenon, ‘air hunger’, a form of suffocation.

The untested cocktail consists of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, an opiate. The combination of drugs has never been used in an execution previously, and there have been no medical tests which say that it will be safe or effective. If the experimental execution goes ahead, however, it may become the new go-to protocol for other States beyond Ohio (which alone has executions scheduled through 2014).

Akorn is one of the few manufacturers to make both midazolam and hydromorphone, and it is the only one which has chosen not to take steps to prevent its drugs from being used to kill prisoners. Reprieve has repeatedly offered to assist Akorn in implementing a simple distribution system to restrict the sale of its life-saving medicines to legitimate medical personnel only, and not permit the sales to prisons for use in executions, but the company has resolutely refused to engage.

With shortages of both midazolam and hydromorphone reported for medical use, it is scandalous that Akorn should be content to see these vital medicines diverted and stockpiled in US execution chambers where they will be used to torture and kill prisoners.