Many executions in the United States occur through lethal injection and one of the most popular components in these lethal injections is the drug Midazolam. It is often the first of multiple drugs administered and acts like Xanax or Valium to reduce pain and to force unconsciousness prior to lethal drugs being administered. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, as was the case a year ago in Oklahoma when Clayton Lockett writhed in pain for 40 minutes before dying.
The Supreme Court is examining studies of the drug to determine if it can still be used going forward. It has been raising many questions about death row and the humane treatment of inmates. Some argue that it works most of the time and that these are, after all, the worst criminals in America. Others point to dignity and comfort in the final minutes before someone loses their life regardless of the circumstances. The Supreme Court will decide.
What makes this so important is that the possible replacement drugs are limited. Most drug companies have stopped selling alternatives with no plans for an alternative. To prepare for this possibility, Oklahoma has passed a bill that allows for the use of nitrogen gas to do the job, just in case the Supreme Court rules against the use of Midazolam.
According to NBC Bay Area:
Lawyers for other death row inmates in the state argued Wednesday before the Supreme Court that midazolam is unsuited for executions because inmates might not be sedated sufficiently and could feel severe pain as the next two drugs are injected. The state counters that lower courts have ruled the dosage likely renders inmates unconscious.