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Medicine

US Executions Threaten Supply of Anaesthetic Used For Surgical Procedures 1160

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-you-saying-that-killing-people-has-consequences dept.
ananyo writes "Allen Nicklasson has had a temporary reprieve. Scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Missouri on 23 October, the convicted killer was given a stay of execution by the state's governor, Jay Nixon, on 11 October — but not because his guilt was in doubt. Nicklasson will live a while longer because one of the drugs that was supposed to be used in his execution — a widely used anesthetic called propofol — is at the center of an international controversy that threatens millions of U.S. patients, and affects the way that U.S. states execute inmates. Propofol, used up to 50 million times a year in U.S. surgical procedures, has never been used in an execution. If the execution had gone ahead, U.S. hospitals could have lost access to the drug because 90% of the U.S. supply is made and exported by a German company subject to European Union regulations that restrict the export of medicines and devices that could be used for capital punishment or torture. This is not the first time that the E.U.'s anti-death-penalty stance has affected the U.S. supply of anesthetics. Since 2011, a popular sedative called sodium thiopental has been unavailable in the United States. 'The European Union is serious,' says David Lubarsky, head of the anesthesiology department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. 'They've already shown that with thiopental. If we go down this road with propofol, a lot of good people who need anesthesia are going to be harmed.'"
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US Executions Threaten Supply of Anaesthetic Used For Surgical Procedures

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  • Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:16AM (#45233737)

    We should just go back to hangings. It works for killing Nazis and war criminals.

    • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sycodon (149926) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:20AM (#45233811)

      Firing squads are effective too.

      For child killers, burning works for me.

      • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrvan (973822) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:24AM (#45233879)

        I think it would be best to have a firing squad composed of the jury that found someone guilty and imposed the death penalty. If you have the guts to condemn someone to die, I think you should also have the guts to execute that penalty.

        (and yes, I also think that every non-vegetarian should be willing to butcher an animal)

        • Re:Hangings (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:29AM (#45233995)

          When the term "judge, jury, and executioner" is used, it's usually in a pejorative sense. Merging the latter two positions is a bad idea from a separation of power standpoint.

        • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:30AM (#45234017)

          Butchering is gross. I wouldn't mind snapping its neck and hading it off to someone else to butcher, though.

          Being grossed out by something doesn't constitute a moral imperative. I'm pretty grossed out by a woman's period but I still have sex with them.

        • by mjr167 (2477430)

          I think the problem with firing squads was occasionally they would miss and just horribly wound the guy...

          But having the jury do it is an interesting proposal.

          • by GNious (953874)

            mount the weapons such that they cannot miss?

          • Anyone can be trained to hit a target tens of meters away. And there are typically several shooters, not one. I would guess that having several rounds tear through the heart would result in fairly rapid unconsciousness and death. (Disclaimer: I do not believe states should have the power to execute people. That power should belong to victims and their families, and only after something much closer to a fair trial than most people on death row in the U.S. initially receive.)
        • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:49AM (#45234359)

          >and yes, I also think that every non-vegetarian should be willing to butcher an animal

          I believe that every animal rights nut should be denied any medication or surgical procedure that has been tested on animals...

        • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Firemouth (1360899) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:50AM (#45234379)
          I disagree with this because the role of a jury is to determine guilt. If what you propose were the case it may sway someone to vote not guilty even when it's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt the person is guilty simply because they don't want to execute the sentence. I think that would be a miscarriage of justice. The jury's disposition to the punishment is irrelevant when determining guilt unless they're doing jury nullification, then they're just not following the law but for a different reason.

          Besides, isn't it ultimately the Judge who determines the sentence, not the jury? Maybe it varies on the type of case and such but my point is the same.

          I don't see any logical reasoning as to why someone who is determining guilt should have to be the one who executes the sentence. It's almost as if you're trying to punish the judge / jury for making a decision of guilty. It wouldn't have any positive impact that I can see and only negative ones.
          • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Informative)

            by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:26AM (#45235031) Journal

            I disagree with this because the role of a jury is to determine guilt.

            No, the role of the jury is to judge both the facts and law. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote, "It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision⦠you [juries] have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy".

            If what you propose were the case it may sway someone to vote not guilty even when it's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt the person is guilty simply because they don't want to execute the sentence

            That is exactly the purpose a jury is supposed to serve. If the community, as represented by a jury of peers deems a punishment unconscionable, they not only have the right but the moral obligation to acquit. If the government wants the people to sign off on its punishments, the government must levy punishments that the community can accept. The jury is supposed to be a check on the legal system.

            It's almost as if you're trying to punish the judge / jury for making a decision of guilty. It wouldn't have any positive impact that I can see and only negative ones.

            The only way this would be punishment for the jury is if they didn't think the punishment actually fit the crime. If that's the case, they damn well should be discouraged. That's a very positive result.

            The US injustice system is draconian enough. We are a "free country" that imprisons more people than than any other country in the world. We still use the death penalty despite the lack of any evidence that it makes our country safer. We are in dire need of reigning in the vindictive and authoritarian nature of our injustice system.

            • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

              by thaylin (555395) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:40AM (#45235237)
              Incorrect. Judges determine the law and undisputed facts, even in the case of juries. Juries only judge disputed "facts". Juries can go outside of the law and will typically not be held accountable because of the above, but the judge of a case is like the moderator. He will decide what issues go to the jury and what do not based on the law.

              Also incorrect. Juries dont typically do sentencing, again the judge does that. In addition in the few cases they do if the feel capital punishment is unconscionable they also can do life in prison instead. They have options other than a moral obligation to acquit.

          • Re:Hangings (Score:4, Informative)

            by pdabbadabba (720526) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:08PM (#45235751) Homepage

            Though the practice is not uniform, many (most?) U.S. states require that, if a death sentence is to be imposed, that it be imposed by a jury. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/us-supreme-court-ring-v-arizona [deathpenaltyinfo.org] But I agree that this is mostly irrelevant to your point.

        • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sycodon (149926) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:51AM (#45234405)

          So if you sentence the guy to thirty years, should the jury have to house, feed and guard him?

        • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:58AM (#45234523)

          So you're going to give a bunch of people who may or may not know how to fire and/or aim a firearm the job of executing someone? When half of them miss and the other half have bad hits its going to be mighty bad when the prisoner is on the ground screaming and dying slowly.

          PS I've never understood the vegetarian quip that more people would be vegetarians if they saw and/or participated in the process of butchering. Vegetarianism is a rather new fad, and until relatively recently most people WERE pretty involved in the butchering process and there was no mass avoidance of meat eating.

          Personally having been hunting since I was 7 (and killed my first deer at 9) I've been pretty involved with the butchering process and if you grow up with it its no big thing. I still kill a few deer per year (usually between 2 and 4) and skin/gut all of them myself. Still love eating meat. Heck when I see a cow grazing the first thing I think of is steak and get hungry.

      • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Funny)

        by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:40AM (#45234191) Journal

        > Hangings

        And with Europe cutting off rope supplies, this is another good reason to invigorate our domestic hemp production.

      • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:53AM (#45235479)

        Nitrogen aspixiation is an almost ideal way. It's cheap, very reliable (Survival rate: Zero), needs no people of medical skill, and uses only a commonly available mass-produced gas.

        The only problem is that many death penalty proponents consider it insufficiently inhumane. It's actually a pleasant way to die: A period of euphoria, then unconsciousness, then death. So it doesn't do much to satisfy the desire for collective vengence.

    • Re:Hangings (Score:5, Funny)

      by durin (72931) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:27AM (#45233939)

      Why not just pull the warning labels off everything they use and let the problem sort itself out?

    • We should just go back to hangings. It works for killing Nazis and war criminals.

      Then the EU would block the export of rope.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:16AM (#45233745)

    I think a country/state that is very proud of (1) their inalienable right to own and wear guns, and (2) insists on killing people found guilty in a very imperfect process, should have the guts to just shoot those people. Executions aren't supposed to be nice, so just get over the squeamishness and just shoot the buggers.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:24AM (#45233877)

      I think a country/state that is very proud of (1) their inalienable right to own and wear guns, and (2) insists on killing people found guilty in a very imperfect process, should have the guts to just shoot those people. Executions aren't supposed to be nice, so just get over the squeamishness and just shoot the buggers.

      The especially weird thing is that a lot of the same people who are big on capital punishment and packing heat also will be the first to bitch about "big government" interfering in their lives with their taxes, healthcare and other "nanny state" regulations. Seems that deliberately, intentionally killing citizens is the most serious form of government intrusion in one's life -- not something to trust to the incompetent, liberal, meddling "gubmint". You know, the terrifying phrase: "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

  • Home grown. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:18AM (#45233787) Homepage Journal

    They do make bullets in the USA, right?
  • We're All Guily (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macromorgan (2020426) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:19AM (#45233801)
    How does killing killers make us any better then the killers themselves?
    • Re:We're All Guily (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Immerman (2627577) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:01AM (#45234585)

      It doesn't. The justice system has nothing to do with us being "better" than anyone else, it exists to
      (1) interrupt the cycle of reprisals that "code of honor" systems create("An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"), by delegating judgement and punishment to a third party held blameless for actions committed in the line of duty.
      (2) discourage future crime through a combination of making an example of criminals caught to dissuade others
      (3) rehabilitate, imprison, or eliminating those who demonstrated a willingness to break the law to prevent repeat offenses

      (1) requires that the punishments inflicted be sufficient to prevent the wronged individuals from taking justice into their own hands. Obviously if the crime is particularly heinous or the wronged often inclined to violence that may set the bar rather high.
      (2) requires that punishments be sufficiently unpleasant that people who believe they probably won't get caught still don't think it's worth the risk.
      (3) killing someone is the most permanent method to make sure they never commit another crime - the largest problem being that you can't release a falsely convicted person from death.

    • Re:We're All Guily (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jiro (131519) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:14AM (#45234831)

      Does locking someone up in jail make us better than kidnappers? Pr fining them any better than thieves?

  • Pentobarbital (Score:4, Informative)

    by mfh (56) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:22AM (#45233833) Journal

    They are switching drugs in Missouri [theguardian.com], while adding a team of compounding pharmacists, so the drugs will be made on site and therefore not subject to Europe's politics. Also some of the European flexing here is a direct result of NSA wiretapping.

    • Re:Pentobarbital (Score:5, Informative)

      by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:28AM (#45233965)

      No. Europe's position is a longstanding one. And as the EU is a larger market than the US, an EU law forbidding a drug company to help with capital punishment carries weight.

      The link with the spying thing is that US companies may be faced with the choice of picking either one or the other market, if privacy directives from the EU come into force. And this is terrifying for US companies, because, again, the EU market is larger.

      • They can just split up into two companies linked by stock ownership and privacy maintaining firewalls, one incorporated in the US and one in the EU. The US government can't (yet) force stock owners to force their foreign companies to implement spying mechanisms in their technology infrastructure AFAIK.

        The companies still fear it because it will cost them money, but they will do it if necessary.

        • The amount of drugs used in lethal injections is trivial, not worth going through any efforts to make it possible, especially as - guess what - the executives and scientists at those companies are probably against having their drugs be used in executions as well! They got into pharma to save lives, not end them.

          For instance, even the US firm Hospira apparently refuses to sell propofol to prisons and there's no ban against it in the US.

  • by Captain_Chaos (103843) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:24AM (#45233883)

    Maybe it's time for the US to take the hint and stop this barbaric and medieval practice?

    Seriously, why does it not bother more Americans that by having the death penalty they find themselves in the illustrious company of countries such as Libya, Sudan, China, Iran, Iraq and North Korea (the "Axis of Evil") and Syria?

    • by dcollins (135727) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:01AM (#45234587) Homepage

      America is fundamentally punitive and violent. Same reason gun massacres every couple weeks make no impact, the highest proportion of people in prison for any country in the world makes no impact, military expenditures equal to the rest of the world combined makes no impact. Perhaps all empires come to be like that.

  • by RedCharlie (1801646) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:29AM (#45233993)
    If I had to excuse any one country for being squeamish about how its chemical products are used, it would be Germany. (But maybe Gov Nixon could ask them if they had any leftover Zyklon B hanging around...I bet that stuff doesn't go bad...)
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:35AM (#45234103)
    I could *perhaps* be convinced of the death penalty if the USA was willing to truly fund its justice system to ensure that trials were fair - And I mean fund to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars. You're never going to convince me of state-sanctioned killing while rich white guys are getting away with murder and poor black guys are being executed.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:43AM (#45234257) Homepage
    the idea that somehow by murdering prisoners we make society a better place is as ridiculous as having a doctor whos taken the hippocratic oath commit the execution. To kill a prisoner is to at best wash the states hands of their responsibility to do anything more constructructive, like engage in corrective efforts that beget the name "correctional institution" in the first place. At worst, its incredibly condescending to assume intelligent americans would be comforted with this pittance of "biblical retribution" we call execution.
    And it is. Capital punishment is derived from, and entirely indistinguishable in the 21st century from, biblical retribution. The idea that killing the killer will somehow make everything OK is nothing more than a laughably exotic attempt by the state to appease constituents clammouring for a reduction in violent crime.

    and there has been a reduction in violent crime in america since the 1970's. its not lauded however. Peace and low crime rates dont win elections. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

    so we gin up the voters with "suburban warzone" rhetoric and the voters insist on ever more stringent "tough on crime" criminal charges. We shuffle ever closer to a police state because we're told to. in turn our elected officials in contestable elections are morally reprehensible when facing a pink slip, so they fuel these flames for their own professional gain. our religious leaders sit idly by, as the notion of murdering the guilty is business as usual to them.

    killing prisoners detracts from the big problem. low employment for unskilled labour combined with a gutted public education system and a criminal code designed to ensure everyone can be convicted if necessary is packing prisons to bursting. the 'wars' on drugs and the 3 strikes laws are nothing more than throwing sawdust on vomit. that if somehow we can contrive a repository for anyone not willing to live the life of a subservient peasant working 3 minimum wage part time jobs and living in squalor, then american is OK, freedom is preserved, and that pepperidge farm dream of the olden times punctuated by dean martin and bing crosby can go on unabated in the suburbs. the real problem is as a society, we have not accepted the fact that we cannot just ignore poor people. to do so created a culture, and class of individual that inevitably becomes determined with absolutely nothing to lose, and that person when they emerge will be as remorseless and callous as the hand of the free market under which they toiled.
  • Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sacrilicious (316896) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:02AM (#45234595) Homepage

    US Executions Threaten Supply of Anaesthetic Used For Surgical Procedures

    HIGHLY misleading headline. I read the headline and thought, "wow, so many executions are occurring in the US that there's not enough of this drug for non-execution purposes"... which is a much more straightforward interpretation than what the article eventually gets into, which is that the use of the drug in a single execution would make an EU regulation kick in.

    BOOOOOOO, slashdot editor. Boooo.

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:09AM (#45234731) Journal

    Welcome to America where killing our citizens is more important than saving their lives.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:58AM (#45235569)

    Propofol is, by far, the most-used anesthetic induction agent; it has almost entirely replaced induction-by-mask, which is now largely confined to kids who don't take well to getting an IV while awake. For non-gas procedures, it's also the most common (only?) anesthetic used for continuous infusion.

    A large hospital can easily go through literally gallons of the stuff a day.

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