Experts Debate Florida Execution Drug

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MIAMI, Aug. 3 (UPI) — As Florida prepares to conduct its first execution using a new lethal drug combination, doctors are debating whether the drug cocktail causes pain.

Manuel Valle, 61, who killed a Coral Gables police officer 33 years ago, is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 1 with a three-drug mixture that includes pentobarbital, a barbiturate sold commercially as Nembutal.

Florida substituted pentobarbital for sodium thiopental, which is no longer available. The pentobarbital is supposed to knock out the inmate. A second drug paralyzes him, and a third stops the heart.

The Florida Supreme Court voted 5-4 last week to stay Valle’s execution — originally set for Tuesday — pending a hearing on the drug cocktail’s safety and efficacy.

In Miami Tuesday, Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola heard clashing testimony from anesthesiologists, The Miami Herald reported.

Dr. David Waisel of Children’s Hospital in Boston said if pentobarbital fails to cause unconsciousness, the inmate could feel the “probably hellish” pain of lethal potassium chloride.

But Dr. Mark Dershwitz of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, said: “This dose is far in excess of any dose that would be used on a human that I can think of.”

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