COLUMBUS — The state of Ohio today said it will increase the dosage of the unique two-drug regimen it uses to carry out executions.
Following an internal review of the process used to execute Dennis McGuire in January, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it remains confident that the current protocol led to a “humane and constitutional execution.”
But starting with the next execution set for Arthur Tyler, of Cuyahoga County, on May 28, the intravenous dosage of midazolam, a sedative, will be increased five times while the dose of hydromorphone, a potent painkiller, will be increased by 20 percent, both to 50 milligrams.
The department said it “sees no reason not to increase the dosage levels to reaffirm that the drugs will, without doubt, cause profound general anesthetic and ventilatory depressant effects, consistent with the prior testimony and declaration of McGuire’s expert…and consistent with the prior testimony and declarations of DRC’s expert witness…”
Ohio faced a shortage of its preferred drug, the powerful barbiturate pentobarbital, because its European manufacturer objects to its use in executions. After it couldn’t find a compounding pharmacy to replicate the drug, Ohio became the first state to fall back on a new two-drug backup combination with the lethal injection of McGuire, 53.
Witnesses described McGuire as gasping for air and making loud snorting sounds during the 25 minutes after the drugs began to flow. His Dayton family has sued the state, arguing that Ohio’s execution method constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The state’s review, however, found that the protocol was carried out as planned.
“…DRC believes that the two drugs used in the McGuire execution had their intended effect and that McGuire did not experience any pain or distress,” reads the report. “The massive doses of drugs given to McGuire rendered him unconscious before any of the irregular bodily movements were observed. The bodily movements that were observed were consistent with the effects of the drugs, his obesity and other body characteristics, and involuntary muscle contractions associated with the ending of respiratory function.
“There is no evidence that McGuire experienced any pain, distress or anxiety,” states the report. “DRC therefore remains confident in its belief that the McGuire execution was carried out consistent with DRC’s policies and constitutional requirements.”
It remains to be seen whether Tyler’s execution will go forward as scheduled. The prosecution has agreed with the defense that Gov. John Kasich should grant clemency in the case because of doubts over who actually pulled the trigger of the gun that killed an elderly merchant in 1983.