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Oklahoma suspends executions after giving man wrong drug

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 14 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5494
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

A convicted murderer executed this January in Oklahoma was given the wrong drug, and the state has suspended further executions only hours before the scheduled execution of another prisoner with the same substance.

Charles Warner received potassium acetate instead of the legally stipulated drug, potassium chloride, which the official execution log incorrectly recorded that he was given.

Potassium chloride is the third drug given in the state’s protocol, stopping the heart after midazolam has allegedly anaesthetized the prisoner and rocuronium bromide has paralyzed the muscles. Potassium acetate would also stop the heart but would act more slowly than potassium chloride, and a higher dose would be needed for the same effect.

Warner, convicted of murdering his roommate’s baby, said as the first drugs were injected, “My body is on fire.” But the potassium acetate, which would cause agonizing pain, would not have been injected until he was deemed unconscious some minutes later. Beyond his initial comment Warner showed no signs of suffering, although he took 18 minutes to be pronounced dead, which is longer than average.

Confusion reigns over who knew of the drug mix-up and when. …

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