LETHAL INJECTION: Missouri Intends to Use Propofol in One-Drug Lethal Injection

The Missouri Department of Corrections has announced that it is switching from a three-drug lethal injection protocol to a single-drug method, using Propofol. Missouri would be the first state to use Propofol (Diprivan) as an execution drug.The drug is manufactured by AstraZeneca. At least one medical expert has questioned whether the new execution drug is appropriate. Missouri’s written protocol does not require a physician to be a part of the execution team. Dr. Jonathan Groner, an Ohio State University surgeon who has studied lethal injection extensively, said that improper administration of the drug could cause pain at the injection site. Dr. Groner said high doses of Propofol will cause respiratory arrest, but the dosage must be accurate and the process must move swiftly because the drug wears off in just a few minutes. According to Dr. Groner, “If they start breathing before the heart stops, they might not die.” It is not clear when Propofol would first be used in an execution. Missouri has scheduled an execution for August 3, but some appeals remain. The state has carried out only two executions in the last seven years.

(“Missouri to use same drug involved in Michael Jackson’s death for executions,” Associated Press, May 24, 2012). See Lethal Injection. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Lethal Injection.