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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Execution by Lethal Injection Put on Hold

TULSA (CN) - A federal judge stopped a Tulsa pharmacy from selling injectable drugs to Missouri for the execution of an inmate in two weeks.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern this week ordered The Apothecary Shoppe not to sell compounded pentobarbital to Missouri's Department of Corrections for the execution of Michael Taylor.

The judicial order came hours after Taylor sued the pharmacy alleging "illegal delivery of this unidentified, unregulated, untested and unsafe" drug.

Taylor claims the sale of the drug violates federal law and that the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty to abducting, raping and stabbing to death a 15-year-old girl in 1989.

"The use of pentobarbital produced by this pharmacy is substantially likely to cause Mr. Taylor severe, unnecessary, lingering, and ultimately inhumane pain for a number of reasons," the 34-page complaint states.

"First, it is unclear what ingredients defendant uses to create the pentobarbital compound it intends to sell to the DOC. Second, defendant obtains the active ingredients used in the compound from unknown sources and thus there is no way to verify whether these sources are regulated and approved by the FDA or what standards they use when developing their products. Third, given the lack of regulation governing defendant's compounding practices, there are no assurances that defendant has compounded the pentobarbital it will provide to DOC in a sterile environment. Fourth, there is no evidence that defendant will or even has the capacity to test the pentobarbital it will provide for the execution of Mr. Taylor to ensure it will not cause unnecessary pain and suffering."

The pharmacy provided Missouri with "dangerously inaccurate" information about the proper storage of the drug that could result in severe pain or a severe allergic reaction when injected, Taylor claims in the lawsuit.

"There is an additional risk that the compounded pentobarbital will be sub-potent, meaning that Mr. Taylor could experience severe pain and suffering or a severe allergic reaction prior to losing consciousness and continuing throughout an unnecessarily long and inhumane execution."

Taylor lists several examples from previous executions, including a January execution in Oklahoma during which an inmate injected with pentobarbital cried out after 20 seconds that he felt his entire body burning, "a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated pentobarbital."

Taylor also mentions the October 2012 execution of an inmate in South Dakota who was injected with pentobarbital.

"After injection of the drug, the inmate cleared his throat, gasped heavily, and snored; his skin turned a blue-purplish hue over a ten-minute period; his heart continued to beat ten minutes after he stopped breathing; and it took twenty minutes for the state to declare him dead," the complaint states. "These events are consisted with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug."

Denmark-based H. Lundbeck A/S previously manufactured the only available pentobarbital for sale in the United States. When it sold the exclusive rights to the drug in January 2012 to Akon, the buyer agreed not to sell it for lethal-injection executions. So Missouri was forced to buy compounded pentobarbital from another source.

The Apothecary Shoppe did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

An expedited hearing on Taylor's motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Taylor seeks actual and punitive damages, an injunction and a declaration the use of compounded pentobarbital is a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He alleges negligence, strict liability and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is represented by Paul DeMuro with Frederic Dorwart in Tulsa and Matthew Hellman with Jenner Block in Washington, D.C.

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