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Missouri to Execute Death-Row Prisoners with Drug that Killed Michael Jackson

If propofol was lethal enough to kill the King of Pop. Missouri's Department of Corrections figures that it's sufficient to execute its death-row prisoners.

State DOC officials announced in May that they were replacing their three-drug method for lethal injection—a formula of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride—with just propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson after a fatal overdose in 2009. If Missouri's DOC goes ahead with plans to use propofol to execute death-row prisoners, it would be the first of the 33 states who sanction the death penalty to use the drug for executions.

Currently, there are 19 men incarcerated by Missouri's DOC whose appeals have run out and are awaiting execution.

"This is very, very concerning with a drug that we don't know, and seeing the problems of the one-drug method." said Kathleen Holmes of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Like other states who used sodium thiopental for executions. Missouri had to find an alternative once the drug's U.S. manufacturer stopped making it for lethal injections. A few slates have replaced thiopental (the sedative component of the formula) with pentobarbital—a barbiturate used to treat anxiety and convulsive disorders like epilepsy—and used it in about 50 executions in the past two years. But only two other states besides Missouri—Arizona and Ohio—have decided to use just a single drug.

In April 2012, Arizona used only pentobarbital to kill Thomas Kemp, 63, who had been convicted of murder 20 years ago. Observers of his execution were disturbed that Kemp shook for several seconds after receiving a lethal dose.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, questioned whether propofol—made by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca—has been researched enough as a state-sanctioned execution drug.

"Any drug used for a new purpose on human subjects should certainly be tested very, very carefully." Dieter said. "I can only imagine the things that might go wrong."

Sources: The Associated Press;

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