Shameful killing in Florida. Gay Mitchell is correct – stop state killings

Florida execution using pentobarbital goes ahead despite protests

Clare Dyer

A man who spent 33 years on death row in Florida for killing a
policeman has been executed despite a petition filed with the Florida
courts by a British neurologist and pleas to the governor from the
Danish drug firm whose pentobarbital was used.

David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at City Hospital, Birmingham,
filed the petition at the Florida Supreme Court to try to stop Manuel
Valle’s execution going ahead.

The Danish company Lundbeck wrote to Florida governor Rick Scott
protesting at the first use of its pentobarbital in a lethal injection
in the state. The drug has already been used in a few other states
after US supplies of sodium thiopental, the first drug specified in
the three drug protocol used by most states, ran out when the sole US
manufacturer withdrew from the market.

Lundbeck’s president Staffan Schuberg said in his letter that the use
of the drug for executions “contradicts everything Lundbeck is in
business to do—provide therapies that improve people’s lives.”

Lundbeck put distribution restrictions on its drug this summer banning
sales to prisons or corrections departments in death penalty states.
But Florida and other states have reserves on hand, which they can use
unless stopped by the courts.

Dr Nicholl argued in his petition that use of pentobarbital for
executions has never been clinically tested or approved and violates
the Controlled Substances Act, which bans its use for non-medical
purposes.

His petition was denied by the court, and the execution went ahead on
September 28, after a three hour delay for a last minute application
by his legal team to the US Supreme Court for a stay. This was turned
down, although one of the justices, Stephen Breyer, issued a strongly
worded dissent saying he would have granted it so the court could
consider Valle’s claim that an execution after 33 years on death row
amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Dr Nicholl said: “The medical profession has been quite explicit that
pentobarbital has no role in executions. The use of this drug, which
should only be used in an intensive care-type setting with full
anaesthetic support, is nothing short of barbaric and has resulted in
botched executions. Florida must stop using pentobarbital in a manner
which is, in my view, unconstitutional and illegal.”

BMJ 2011;343:d6317