Deborah Denno was quoted in Review Journal about Nevada’s state officials proposing to use fentanyl as one of its lethal injection drugs.
For Nevada’s first execution in more than a decade, state officials are turning to a never-before-tried combination of drugs, including a powerful painkiller that is fueling much of the opioid epidemic and a paralyzing drug that could mask any signs of trouble.
If the state’s highest court approves the plan and it works without complications, the system could offer an alternative execution method to other states seeking hard-to-obtain drugs for lethal injections. But the drugs also carry serious risks, and their use in an execution could invite new shortages of medication used for surgery and pain relief.
“It’s an experiment,” said Deborah Denno, a law professor and lethal injection expert at Fordham University in New York. “It sounds like a high-risk venture. Even trained people can’t claim to know what’s going to happen.”
None of the drugs — the sedative diazepam, the painkiller fentanyl and the paralytic cisatracurium — has been used in executions before.
Fentanyl has been at the center of the opioid crisis, with thousands of overdose deaths blamed on heroin laced with the synthetic opioid that often enters the U.S. from China and other countries. A fentanyl overdose killed Prince in 2016.