Is Propofol The Right Drug For Missouri Executions?

Aug 22, 2013

Missouri could soon become the first state to execute prisoners using the drug propofol. That’s the same anesthetic that killed pop star Michael Jackson. Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court scheduled Allen Nicklasson’s execution date for October 23 and Joseph Franklin for November 20.

Some feel the state is moving too quickly.

Thirty-two states use lethal injection, but Missouri’s the only one to propose using propofol. That raises red flags with Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.  

“The state is saying, ‘Let us go ahead, and then we’ll see how it goes, and then we’ll either continue with it or not.’ That is a risky process and one which I think raises human rights concerns,” Dieter said.

Missouri is considering propofol because pharmaceutical companies won’t distribute other drugs that have been used for executions.

Michael Rushford is the president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. He doesn’t think there are any complications using a drug like propofol that has never been used in this manner.

“We’re putting somebody to sleep here,” Rushford. “At the correct dosage, all of these anesthesias are going to do that. I don’t see a problem. I don’t see room for a debate here.”

Missouri’s use of propofol may not last long. The three drug companies that manufacture the drug- Fresenius Kabi, Teva, and Hospira- all say they won’t allow their distributors to sell the drug to departments of corrections if it will be used in executions.