Many Lethally Injected May Feel Pain: New Study


As many as four of 10 prisoners put to death in the U.S. might receive inadequate anesthesia, causing them to remain conscious and experience blistering pain during a lethal injection, the Houston Chronicle reports. Researchers in Florida and Virginia drew that conclusion after reviewing levels of anesthetic in the blood of 49 inmates after they were executed. The study’s lead author, Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, chairman of surgical oncology at the University of Miami, said, “We were asking: Is there a possibility of awareness during an execution? Is there a large degree of pain and suffering associated with it? And I think the answer we found is yes.”

Of the inmates studied in a report published by the British journal The Lancet, 43 percent had concentrations of anesthetic in their blood – as measured during autopsies – that would indicate consciousness rather than sedation during an execution. Koniaris, who says he does not oppose the death penalty, thinks the study warrants a moratorium on executions until more experts can review whether some inmates remain conscious during lethal injection. Death penalty supporters rejected a moratorium. “Lethal injection represents the most humane possible means of punishing a brutal, heinous murderer,” said Andy Kahan, Houston Mayor Bill White’s advocate for crime victims. “Whether or not it is painful, one thing is for sure, it is certainly less painful than the excruciating and horrific death that the victim suffered at the hand of the defendant.”


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