Intended for healthcare professionals


US states consider execution by nitrogen gas as lethal injections grind to a halt

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 23 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1591
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

The long campaign to prevent the use of medicines in executions by lethal injection seems to be nearing success, as several of the largest US states have admitted that they are unable to carry out scheduled executions using lethal injection after a concerted refusal by drug makers to let their products be used for the purpose.

But, instead of abandoning the death penalty, states are turning to other execution methods, old and new. Oklahoma’s state House of Representatives this week passed, by 85 to 10, a bill to adopt a completely new method of execution, asphyxiation by nitrogen gas. The technique has long been advocated by death penalty proponents who say that it is cheap and painless.

“It’s probably the best thing we’ve come up with since the start of executing people by government,” Mike Christian, a Republican state representative who sponsored the bill, told the Oklahoman newspaper.

Executions are currently stalled in Oklahoma, …

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