TUCSON, Ariz. – During the nearly two hours it took for an Arizona death row inmate to die last week, executioners injected him with 15 times the amount of a sedative and a painkiller that they originally intended to use, according to documents released Friday.
Records released to Joseph Rudolph Wood’s attorneys show he was administered midazolam and hydromorphone in 50-milligram increments 15 times between 1:53 p.m. and 3:45 p.m., for a total of 750 milligrams of each drug. He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. after gasping more than 600 times while he lay on the table.
Arizona’s execution protocol calls for 50 milligrams of each drug, although some states use as much as 500 milligrams of midazolam in their execution procedures.
“Those are pretty staggering amounts of medication. They did not shortchange in the dose,” said Karen Sibert, a longtime anesthesiologist and spokeswoman for the California Society of Anesthesiologists.
Sibert, an associate professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said patients who are sedated before a surgery typically receive no more than 2 milligrams each of midazolam and hydromorphone.
“It would be rare that I would use more than 2 milligrams even for a lengthy surgery,” Sibert said. “If that is accurate, that is absolutely a lethal dose.”
Wood’s July 23 execution renewed debate over the death penalty and the efficacy of lethal injection. It was the third execution to go awry in the U.S. this year.