On Oct 4 2013 the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections. The lawsuit alleges that the Department failed to comply with Missouri’s Open Meetings and Records law (often known as ‘the Sunshine law’) by failing to comply with a request for information about how the Department obtains propofol. This drug is an anesthetic, used widely in surgeries across the world. See the ACLU press release regarding the lawsuit here.
Since experiencing difficulty obtaining drugs for the much used ‘3 drug protocol’ execution method, many states have switched to using just one drug in execution methods. Missouri chose propofol. No state has yet used this drug in an execution, but Missouri is planning to use it to execute two men, one in October and one in November of this year. The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently printed an article about the concerns of using propofol which states that the European Union, which is against capital punishment, could ban the export of propofol to the United States if it is used in executions. This could have dangerous consequences for access to the drug by hospitals across the United States. Read the article here.
This threat to safe, effective healthcare is evidenced by the recent statement from the Missouri Association of Anesthesiologists. The Association stated its strong opposition to the use of propofol in executions “due to the immediate impact it could have on our ability to safely administer anesthesia during surgeries. As physicians, anesthesiologists rely on propofol to manage vital life functions in over 95% of the surgeries we perform. If’Missouri uses this anesthetic in a single lethal injection, over 15,000 hospitals, clinics, and health care facilities across the country are in risk of losing their supply of propofol in the operating room.” Read the full statement from the Missouri Association of Anesthesiologists here
UPDATE: On October 9th 2013 the Missouri Department of Corrections announced that it would be returning a shipment of propofol after the drug’s distributor requested it be sent back. The Louisiana based distributor Morris and Dickson Co. says they mistakenly sent a shipment of propofol to the Missouri Department of Corrections, which is planning to use the anesthetic in executions. The drugs manufacturer, a Germany company, has a policy against selling drugs to governments that will use them to carry out a death sentence.
See the Associated Press article on the subject here.