This morning’s scheduled execution of murderer-rapist Michael Morales in California was postponed after court-ordered anesthesiologists refused to participate in the process, the Los Angeles Times reports. The prison warden changed plans and announced that the inmate would be executed tonight with a lethal dose of barbiturates. The execution would occur at 7:30 p.m. with an unprecedented single dose of sodium pentothal, a lethal barbiturate, rather than the standard three-chemical potion.
A week ago, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that the state must use one of three options: A lethal injection of only barbiturates; having an anesthesiologist on hand to ensure Morales was unconscious when the standard three-chemical injection was administered; or a stay of the execution pending a hearing. State corrections officials chose the second option, and had two doctors ready to proceed with the execution at 12:01 a.m. today. The doctors’ concerns related to the ethics of returning an inmate to consciousness in the event of a botched lethal injection. Doctors said the ruling raised questions about the possibility of having to intervene in the execution “if any evidence of either pain or a return to consciousness arose.”