Our Opinion: Medicine and patient safety trump politics

Anesthesiology is a serious discipline.

So, when Missouri anesthesiologists warn the use propofol, an anesthetic, for executions could jeopardize supplies for surgical patients, we’re inclined to pay attention.

The Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists (MSA) on Monday urged the state of Missouri to refrain from using propofol in upcoming executions, including the scheduled Oct. 23 execution of Allen Nicklasson.

The event would mark the state’s first inclusion of propofol in a lethal injection process since Missouri announced In 2012, without explanation, that it would begin using the drug.

Concerns arise because the drug largely is manufactured and supplied by companies in Europe, where capital punishment is opposed. Those companies have indicated supplies of the drug will be discontinued if it is used for executions.

Anesthesiologists made clear their concerns are medical, not political.

“We urge the Department of Corrections not to jeopardize the safety of over 50 million patients who rely on this critical medication for anesthesia during surgery each year,” MSA President Dr. Larry Petersen said in a statement.

We confess our knowledge of anesthesiology is limited.

We do know if a general anesthetic is required, we want the best available medication administered by a competent professional. We also know propofol was involved in the death of Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop.”

Petersen added to that knowledge when he explained: “A shortage of this medication will take the medical specialty of anesthesiology back 20 years, leading to more complications in the operating room, an increased rate of nausea and vomiting after surgery, and extended time required to wake up from anesthesia after a procedure.”

We have no objection to capital punishment. It is the law in Missouri, and justice is the process of applying the law as circumstances warrant.

From a medical rather than political standpoint, however, we share the concerns voiced by anesthesiologists.

The state has three remaining dosages of propofol; one expires this month and the others in May 2014 and in 2015.

Using a specific drug to execute up to three convicts does not justify jeopardizing the safety and recovery of thousands of surgery patients in Missouri.

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