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October 22, 2015

"Heroin as an execution drug?"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable Columbus Dispatch article discussing the legislative conversation starting to emerge in the wake of the recent decision by Ohio Gov Kasich to extend the state's de facto moratorium on executions due the the continuing difficulty securing lethal injection drugs (noted here).  Here are excerpts:

As Ohio continues to struggle to find the drugs needed to carry out executions of death row inmates, the president of the Ohio Senate says it may be time to find other methods.  “If we can’t get the drugs that our protocol calls for, either we need to change our protocols, or we need to think about other solutions,” said Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina.

“There are a lot of people out there talking about other solutions.  I’ve heard everything from using heroin, to using nitrogen, to going back to the electric chair.  That’s a debate we probably need to have.”

The state's has not executed an inmate since Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs being used for the first time anywhere in the U.S. The state last week canceled all executions for 2016 and there are now 24 inmates with executions scheduled into 2018.

A law that Gov. John Kasich signed in December allowing prison officials to secretly buy lethal-injection drugs from compounding pharmacies has not worked in getting Ohio the necessary drug mixture. Pharmacies have generally been unwilling to participate in a process that leads to little in sales but a potential for harsh blowback from the public if they are discovered.

The federal government has thus far blocked Ohio’s efforts to import the drugs from overseas, though the state continues to seek ways to do that.  Asked if the state would bring back the electric chair known as “Old Sparky,” Faber said, “there are options out there.”

A few prior related posts:

October 22, 2015 at 07:48 PM | Permalink


I believe a lethal dose of opiates or barbiturates should be available to any inmate upon request, not just those facing execution. That being said I suspect the feds would have something to say about a state attempting to use heroin as an execution agent.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 22, 2015 9:36:22 PM

Why heroin? Is not a legal medical opiate enough?

I did see a film where heroin was used as a medical opiate to deal with pain.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 22, 2015 9:40:58 PM

The Supremacy has solved this problem, but no one making policy reads this blog.

Prison Industries recruit the considerable synthetic chemistry talent that already exists behind bars. Using recipes from the 19th Century, they produce all the barbiturates in all their varieties that can ever be used.

Nitrogen should be tested on animals, then practiced by executioners on large animals. Pigs are extremely similar to humans. Then offer the prisoners a barbecue with the result.

The lawyer is just too stupid to see the self evident.

Heroin possession is illegal.

Rummage around Title 21 US Code. The Controlled Substances Act.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 22, 2015 11:20:33 PM

Without hurting the credibility of SH by my agreeing with him, his suggestion is excellent.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 22, 2015 11:22:01 PM

Heroin itself seems odd, it seems like other opiates that aren't street drugs would have better optics. That being said, I suspect the costs of administering enough to cause a massive overdose are one reason why states don't do this.

Posted by: Erik M | Oct 23, 2015 8:59:34 AM

I'm reporting Supremacy Claus to PETA for retaliatory action. Expect the protesters to be picketing in front of your house on Saturday.

Posted by: Chris | Oct 27, 2015 6:28:46 PM

Shoot em in the head. Firing squad of six including the Governor as lead shooter.

Posted by: Jack Mehoff | Oct 28, 2015 2:18:32 PM

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