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Several States Under Scrutiny After Recent Lethal Injection Failures

States that use lethal injection have encountered problems with the execution method, including difficulty finding usable veins or issues with lethal chemicals and needles becoming disengaged, reports the Arizona Republic. Recent problems in Arizona, Texas, and Alabama have exposed cracks in what critics of lethal injections call a "veneer of medicalization." In Arizona, correctional officials have struggled to set IV lines during all three recent lethal injections, which resulted in inserting a catheter in the condemned man's femoral vein on two occasions. Attorneys for Clarence Dixon, who was executed on May 11, said it took 40 minutes to insert IVs into his body. His execution team resorted to using his femoral vein, which caused him to experience pain and resulted in a "fair amount of blood," according to witnesses. The execution team for Frank Atwood's execution also struggled with inserting IVs, and had to consider the femoral vein, before successfully guiding the insertion of injection into one of his hands.

“Well-trained medical personnel generally do not want to be involved in executions, because they've taken an oath to do no harm,” said Ngozi Ndulue of the Death Penalty Information Center. Setting an IV into a person’s vein can be difficult for numerous reasons, according to Dr. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City anesthesiologist who has witnessed several executions in Oklahoma as an expert hired by the state’s Attorney General. Some people are predisposed to having problematic veins, and other people's veins become difficult to use if they have spent much time in hospitals with IVs. However, according to Arizona Department of Corrections protocols, IV team members are required to go through only one training session before an execution. When the Arizona Department of Corrections declined to answer questions about the execution process or the recent struggles with IV insertion. Media and constitutional law attorney David Bodney said witnessing the entirety of executions is of paramount importance. “The public has a right to monitor those activities, to scrutinize them, to bear witness, and ensure that the process is consistent with the people's will,” Bodney said.


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