Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen declared a 90-day moratorium on executions while the state studies its method of lethal injection. Executions also are halted in Missouri, California and North Carolina because of lethal injection concerns.

In Texas, the big issue is whether Texas has executed innocent people, but in Tennessee the issue that sparked the moratorium is whether the protocol used for lethal injections causes the inmate to suffer.

More from the press release from TCASK:

TCASK Applauds Ethical Choice by Governor

Tennessee Joins Florida, California, and North Carolina in Studying Lethal Injection Procedures

Nashville: The Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing applauded Governor Phil Bredesen’s decision to halt executions while Tennessee’s method of lethal injection is studied today. Executions have been botched recently in California, Florida, and Ohio resulting in obvious pain to the condemned. Tennessee’s protocol, which includes no medical personnel and the use of questionable chemicals, one of which is strictly banned for use in euthanizing animals, presented many of the same risks.

“The Governor has taken a courageous and moral step today,” said Reverend Stacy Rector, Executive Director of TCASK. “If Tennessee is going to carry out executions, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that they are carried out in a humane manner. Tennessee’s lethal injection procedure was a botched execution waiting to happen.”

The lethal injection procedure utilized by Tennessee involves a three drug cocktail similar to that used in most other states. The first drug, thiopental, is meant to anesthetize the inmate. The second drug, pavulon, paralyzes the nervous system, and a dose of potassium chloride causes cardiac arrest. However, thiopental is an extremely unstable anesthetic, and potassium chloride has been described by some experts as causing the maximum amount of pain to the cardiovascular system. Because the second drug, pavulon, paralyzes the inmate, it is highly possible that a condemned person would feel all the effects of the potassium chloride, while being unable to speak or move. Pavulon has been banned for veterinary procedures.

“If a drug is not good enough for an animal, it should not be used on a person,” Reverend Rector said.

The issue centers around whether or not the inmate experiences any of the effects of the lethal drugs, but Tennessee’s execution protocol involves absolutely no medical personnel. The maintenance and application of the thiopental is handled by non-medical personnel and no one monitors the inmates to ensure complete anesthesia.

“Procedures involving human life should not be trusted to people with no medical training,” said Reverend Rector. “The people of Tennessee deserve a capital punishment system that they can trust. Whether you are talking about the accuracy of convictions, the fairness of the application, the financial cost to tax-payers, or the execution procedure itself, our current system completely fails to meet this test.”

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