Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled eight men to face lethal injection in a four-day blitz. Hutchinson’s decision was made due to anticipation of the expiration date of the drugs used in the operation.
The men, who have been on death row for years, are scheduled for execution for murders committed between 1989 and 1999, frustrating both the supporters of the death penalty and supporters of victims’ rights, according to the New York Times.
The drug in question, midazolam, is one of a three drug cocktail used in lethal injections, the other two being pancoronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which causes death by stopping the heart of the victim.
Arkansas’s supply of midazolam expires in April 2017, with the executions scheduled for two a day between April 17-27.
Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005.
State executions have been stalled because of legal difficulties surrounding state execution and because of the difficulty in obtaining the drugs necessary to produce the lethal cocktail.
Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the execution orders on Monday, Feb. 27.
Hutchinson said that he felt reticent about lining the executions up in a series.
“I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that’s not the circumstances that I find myself in, and, again, the families of the victims that have endured this for so many years deserve a conclusion to it,” Hutchinson said, as reported by the New York Times.
Ellen Odell, director of John Brown University’s nursing program, cast her own aspersions on Hutchinson’s decision.
If the issue was the expiration of midazolam, she explained, the solution would be to use a different type of drug.
“An easy out would be to get a different drug. If [midazolam] is not meant to be an anesthetic, and doesn’t have any painkiller-type effects anyway, just get a different drug. If the issue is ‘we’re going to expedite this and hurry this up just because this drug’s going to expire,’ pick a different drug. That makes logical sense to me”
The drugs used, however, are not always obtained so easily. Many of the drugs used in the lethal execution process are provided by European companies who now refuse to provide them for use in state executions, according to the Associated Press.
Odell said that using a different type of drug such as a painkiller or anesthetic would not be difficult, but that, no matter the drug, the administration of said drug would have to be careful.
“You want to give them enough pain medication so they don’t feel the arrhythmias in their heart, but you can’t give them so much pain medication that it knocks their respiratory drive, making them suffocate before the potassium chloride can work.”
Anna Klein, a junior nursing major at JBU, said that scheduling the executions of these men to accommodate the expiration date of the midazolam was inhumane.
“If you’re considering the value of human life in comparison of the value of the price of these drugs, and, placing those two before you, say ‘the value of these drugs is more important than the date of execution for these prisoners, you face the ethical dilemma of saying that the value of this medication is, ethically speaking, is of greater importance than the lives of these men.”
Klein expressed that, “Based solely on the expiration dates, what [Hutchinson] is doing, in my point of view, is saying ‘the value of these drugs is more important to me and the state than the value of giving these men however many more days.’”