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Arkansas execution proceeds as pharma companies lose battle to stop use of their drugs

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1977 (Published 21 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1977
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Arkansas has carried out its first execution in 12 years after drug companies failed to persuade the courts to stop their drugs being used by state authorities, who they said obtained them dishonestly.

Of the eight men whom Arkansas planned to execute in an 11 day period, Ledell Lee, 51, was the first to die. The state’s governor said that the compressed timetable was made necessary by the looming expiry of its only stock of midazolam at the end of April.

Lee was injected with a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. The injections began at 11.56 pm on 20 April, just four minutes before his execution warrant expired.

His death caps a week of competing legal filings and rulings in which some of the inmates saw their executions stayed and reinstated up to three times. Many of the court filings involved individual aspects of the inmates’ cases, and so far four prisoners have been successful in winning stays. These four can no …

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