Death Penalty

Questions are raised about midazolam as an execution drug; dosage ranged from 10 to 500 milligrams

A drug being used to calm anxiety before surgery is now being used in executions amid a shortage of the usual drug cocktail.

The drug, midazolam, has been used in nine executions, the first in October, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. But questions are surfacing after inmates in three of those executions (in Oklahoma, Florida and Ohio) took longer than usual to die, and gasped for air or thrashed about during the process.

The states use differing dosages of the drug. Florida uses 500 milligrams while Oklahoma uses 100 milligrams. Ohio had used 10 milligrams, but it is raising the amount to 50 milligrams.

The use of midazolam as an execution drug has “been a mess,” said Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. “Its use should stop,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Prior coverage: “Nationwide lethal-injection drug shortage forces states to experiment with executions”

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