Doctor: Ohio's Lethal Injection Inhumane

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) -- An anesthesiologist testified Monday that Ohio's lethal injection procedure isn't appropriate for dogs or cats, let alone humans.

Dr. Mark Heath's testimony on behalf of two murder defendants came in a Lorain County hearing on the constitutionality of state's method for putting prisoners to death.

Heath, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University, says it's possible to perform lethal injection of prisoners in a humane manner, but that Ohio's method falls below the standard for euthanizing household pets.

Ohio requires its executions to be carried out "in a professional, humane, sensitive and dignified manner." The two men facing murder charges say the state's lethal injection procedure doesn't give the quick and painless deaths required by state law.

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 that administer three drugs in succession to sedate, paralyze and kill prisoners.

The major criticism of the three-drug execution procedure is that if the executioner administers too little anesthetic or makes mistakes in injecting it, the inmate could suffer excruciating pain from the other two drugs.

Difficulties with two executions in recent years, 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 on behalf of defendants Ronald McCloud and Ruben Rivera, who are accused of separate murders and could receive death sentences if convicted.

The state was expected to counter with expert witness Dr. Mark Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist from Massachusetts, who will testify via video conference Tuesday.

Ohio has executed 26 inmates since it resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

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