Intended for healthcare professionals


US Supreme Court rejects plea not to give lethal injection to prisoner with rare medical condition

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 04 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1620
  1. Owen Dyer

The new conservative majority on the US Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 against a request for a stay of execution from a Missouri death row inmate who argued that his rare medical condition meant that a lethal injection would make his death more painful and frightening.1

Lawyers for Russell Bucklew, 50, argued that his execution by lethal injection with pentobarbital would violate the US Constitution’s eighth amendment, which prohibits the imposition of “cruel and unusual punishments,” because the injection might cause fragile blood vessel tumours in his head and neck to rupture.

Bucklew has the rare congenital disease cavernous hemangioma, which leads to the proliferation of vascular tumours. Justice Stephen Breyer, seen as one of the four liberal leaning judges …

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