Three killers on Kentucky’s death row have raised a new challenge to execution by lethal injection, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. In a federal lawsuit filed yesterday, they argue that the process violates federal law because one of three drugs used to anesthetize, paralyze, and stop the heart of the inmate is a controlled substance and can’t be used without physician involvement.
Kentucky law prohibits a physician from participating in an execution, and physicians in all other 37 states with the death penalty are barred from involvement by ethical guidelines. The case apparently is the first challenge arguing that the use of the drug sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, violates federal law if a physician does not prescribe or administer it. “This is now a new wrinkle,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. He said the question becomes how states can humanely execute people if courts were to find a doctor must either prescribe or administer at least one of the drugs used in lethal injection — and doctors are barred from doing so. “By and large, doctors do not want to participate,” he said.