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Mo. Society of Anesthesiologists Opposes Use of Propofol in Executions

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Getty/Mario Anzuoni-Pool

Getty/Mario Anzuoni-Pool

CBS St. Louis (con't)

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) - Missouri will move ahead with two planned executions despite efforts in Europe to block a common anesthetic from being used in the procedure, Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday.

The European Union has warned Missouri’s Department of Corrections that it could stop shipments of propofol if it is used for executions in the United States.

Executions are prohibited in the EU and nearly all of the world’s supply of the power sedative is manufactured in Europe.

Missouri has enough to carry out its next two executions and one more, the first scheduled for later this month, but Nixon declined to say what the state would do if it is unable to get more propofol.

“I think it is important for folks to understand that it’s a legal process that brought us to this point,” Nixon said, adding that American courts, not European politicians, will decide Missouri’s death penalty policy. “We’re going to continue to monitor it very closely. At this point, there’s no stay in effect.”

Dr. Donald Arnold is a board member of the Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists, whose group has urged the state to reconsider using propofol.

“Accordingly, we strongly oppose the Missouri Department of Corrections use of propofol in lethal injections due to the immediate impact it could have on our ability to safely administer anesthesia during surgery,” he said.

The Missouri Supreme Court has set a date of October 23 for the execution of Allen Nicklasson and a date of November 20 for the execution of Joseph Franklin.

Dr. Arnold says his group’s opposition to the use of the drug in executions has nothing to do with the death penalty itself. “From our perspective, the debate is not about capital punishment. Our position, first and foremost, is that we’re here to care for patients,” he said.

Missouri turned to propofol for executions only after the drugs it and other states previously used for lethal injection could no longer be obtained by prisons and corrections departments because drug makers did not approve of such uses.

Propofol is America’s most popular anesthetic, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists. About 50 million vials are administered annually in some 15,000 U.S. hospitals and clinics, about four-fifths of all anesthetic procedures. The society said in a statement that propofol is popular because it works quickly and patients wake up faster with fewer side effects such as post-operative nausea.

Propofol is perhaps best known outside the medical community as the drug deemed responsible for the death of music icon Michael Jackson in 2009.

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