Arizona Says Inmates Who Want to Be Properly Sedated For the Death Penalty Should Bring Their Own Drugs

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

In December of 2015, the state of Arizona agreed to halt the use of the controversial sedative midazolam. Midazolam is one drug in a three-part mix used for executions, and it has a long track record of not working.

In a particularly famous case from 2014, one Arizona inmate took over two hours to die, during which time he gasped and heaved on the table for all to see. Since coming to this decision, Arizona has had to halt administering executions. Proper sedatives are difficult to come by, as most drug companies don’t want to make their materials accessible to state sponsored killings. Pfizer, for instance, officially blocked their drugs from being used in mid-2016. Lundbeck, which produces pentobarbital, blocked the use of its products in executions in 2011. Arizona attempted to obtain sodium thiopental illegally from India in 2015, but the shipment was detained.

The Guardian reports that Arizona has a new innovative idea: BYOS (sedative). A new protocol suggests that if attorneys want their clients to be completely out for their death, they’re welcome to bring drugs for them:

The protocol says that “the inmate’s counsel or other third parties acting on behalf of the inmate’s counsel” may provide the department with a sedative, pentobarbital, or an anesthetic, Sodium Pentothal, if they can obtain it “from a certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier”.


A lethal injection expert at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Megan McCracken, told the Guardian that the this idea is “unprecedented, wholly novel and frankly absurd. A prisoner or a prisoner’s lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections, so it’s hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol.”

No one has been executed in Arizona since James Wood took those two hours to die in 2014. There are currently 119 inmates on their death row. States have started to circulate bills that allow the use of electric chairs, gas chambers and firing squads. Four men have been executed by lethal injection so far this year. The last man to be executed in 2016 was Ronald Bert Smith Jr., who coughed and gasped throughout his death.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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I don’t see this working. I can’t even get refills on my migraine meds without doing a goddamn soft-shoe jig for my doctor, because apparently triptans have a real presence on the street (the kids are here for the sweet side effects, like dry mouth and muscle aches).