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Our Opinion: Executing the next logical step

Our Opinion: Executing the next logical step

October 15th, 2013 in News

We commend Gov. Jay Nixon for abandoning use of the anesthetic propofol in upcoming executions.

This marks the third - and, hopefully, last - time propofol is a topic in this forum.

The governor's reversal was encouraged by us, the Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists (MSA) and capital punishment opponents.

We were proverbial "strange bedfellows" seeking the same action, but for different reasons.

The MSA made clear its objection to using propofol for executions was not a statement on the capital punishment issue. The group's concern was medical, not political.

Propofol is a widely used surgical anesthetic that is effective and minimizes side effects. A majority of the drug is manufactured by a German company and exported to the United States.

The European Union, however, opposes capital punishment and has threatened to withhold export to the United States, if the anesthetic is used for capital punishment.

We do not oppose execution. It is a law in Missouri, and we believe the justice system affords legal procedures and appeals to ensure a death penalty is imposed only when warranted.

That said, we did not condone using Missouri's limited supply of propofol in executions at the risk of countless surgical patients who rely on the anesthetic for safety, comfort and recovery.

Although we support the death penalty, the U.S. Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

In Missouri, the law permits execution by lethal injection and by lethal gas. The state does not now have an operational gas chamber. Methods of lethal injection have been challenged in the courts, and future variations also are likely to be challenged.

The governor has directed the Department of Corrections to seek a lethal drug that meets constitutional and legal provisions.

That's the next logical step.