Ethical Debate Rages: Missouri Inmate Potentially Subjected to Surgery Without Anesthesia

Ethical Debate Rages: Missouri Inmate Potentially Subjected to Surgery Without Anesthesia

An appeal seeking to spare the life of a death row convict states that Missouri’s execution protocol permits “surgery without anesthesia” in the event that the usual procedure of locating a suitable vein to inject the fatal medication fails.

The 52-year-old Brian Dorsey is set to be executed on Tuesday for the 2006 murders of his cousin and her husband at their central Missouri residence. His lawyers are requesting pardon from Governor Mike Parson and are pursuing many appeals.

A federal court case centers on Missouri’s method of administering the lethal dosage of pentobarbital. The primary and secondary intravenous lines must be inserted according to the prescribed protocol.

However, it does not specify the extent to which the execution team may go in order to identify a suitable vein, which leaves open the prospect of an invasive “cutdown procedure,” according to Dorsey’s attorneys.

About Cutdown Procedure

An incision that may be several inches deep and several inches wide is required for the treatment. To separate tissue from a vein that will serve as the injection site, forceps are utilized.

“It’s surgery,” federal public defender Arin Brenner, one of Dorsey’s attorneys, said. “It would be surgery without anesthesia.”

Brenner stated that due of his obesity, Dorsey is more likely than not to require a cutdown. Due to his diabetes and history of IV medication usage, his veins may possibly be compromised.

Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s representative cited the state’s response to the appeal but did not offer a statement.

“Cut-down procedures are rarely, if ever, used under Missouri’s execution protocol,” the reply said. “And in the event that a cut-down procedure were necessary, medical personnel have access to pain relieving medications.”

Megan Crane, another of Dorsey’s attorneys, stated that medication would be insufficient and that if the operation is required, Dorsey should be given a local anesthetic.

“It is extremely painful,” Crane stated. “Even if given an oral pain relief or an opioid, that will not relieve the pain.”

Dorsey’s attorneys argue that the use of the surgical procedure would violate both his right to religious freedom and his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment because it would keep him from engaging in meaningful communication with his spiritual adviser and from performing final rites.

This is not a theoretical problem. After eight failed attempts by a medical team to start an IV, serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech’s February execution in Idaho was postponed. It’s unknown if, when, or how the state would attempt to have him put to death again.