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Expert backs Ohio lethal injection procedures, says inmates receive 2-hour dose of anesthetic
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    ELYRIA, Ohio — Ohio’s process of execution is not inhumane, and includes enough anesthetic to knock out an average inmate for two hours, an expert testified Tuesday.
    Dr. Mark Dershwitz was the second anesthesiologist to testify in a hearing concerning the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection procedure.
    Dershwitz’s testimony Tuesday, by video hookup, came a day after another witness, Dr. Mark Heath, described Ohio’s execution method as unfit for even euthanizing dogs and cats. Heath was hired by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the group challenging the state’s methods.
    The three-drug cocktail would cause agonizing pain if the anesthetic isn’t properly administered, and the state’s procedure for executions doesn’t protect against that happening, Heath said.
    ‘‘The way lethal injection is being done in Ohio does not comport with what is being done for euthanizing of animals,’’ Heath said. ‘‘It falls way below that standard.’’
    But Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist from Massachusetts, discounted the concerns raised by Heath about problems that could arise during the execution, such as a catheter coming loose.
    Lethal injections are on hold nationally while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge in a case from Kentucky, which is among the roughly three dozen states, like Ohio, that administer three drugs in succession to sedate, paralyze and kill prisoners.
    The major criticism of the three-drug execution procedure is that the inmate could suffer excruciating pain from the final two drugs if the executioner administers too little anesthetic or makes mistakes injecting it.
    Heath, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University, testified Monday on behalf of Ronald McCloud and Ruben Rivera, who are accused of separate murders and could receive death sentences if convicted. The two men say the state’s lethal injection procedure doesn’t give the quick and painless deaths required by state law.
    In Ohio, difficulties in recent years with two executions, in which the execution team struggled to find suitable veins in inmates’ arms, brought complaints that the method is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. Ohio officials stand by the procedure.
    Heath testified that the design of Ohio’s death house, where executions take place, is problematic because the inmate and the person administering the drugs are in different rooms separated by a one-way mirror.
    Anesthesiologists always administer drugs while standing next to the patient so they can detect if problems occur, such as a leak or a ruptured vein, Heath said. He also warned drugs could go into tissue instead of a vein.
    Other problems that could occur include catheters coming out of veins, kinks in the IV tubing and errors in the mixing of the anesthetic — sodium thiopental — which is sold in powder form.
    During a contentious cross-examination from Assistant Prosecutor Tony Cillo, Heath testified that he is personally opposed to the death penalty in whatever form it is carried out. Heath, who has testified about lethal injection in 11 states, also said he has not found an acceptable method for lethal injection in any state.

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