"It's not working. It's not working!"

Barbarous Execution Shames Ohio

by Jonathan I. Groner MD

Ohio, May 2, 2006: Today's execution of Joseph Lewis Clark, age 57, took nearly 90 minutes, making it one of the longest lethal injection executions in US history. The execution team struggled for 25 minutes to insert an intravenous line for the lethal injection, only to have Mr. Clark complain, "It's not working. It's not working" when the lethal chemicals began flowing. Prison officials then drew curtains and attempted to re-establish the intravenous line, while Mr. Clark could be heard "moaning and groaning" by witnesses. A new IV was established, the curtains were re-opened, and the drug infusion began again. Mr. Clark raised his head several times and breathed deeply before becoming still.

In response to this grisly execution, Jonathan I. Groner MD, national expert on lethal injection, commented: "The opaque curtain pulled across the execution chamber could not hide the fact that this man was tortured to death. Furthermore, the three drug injection used to extinguish his life is considered so inhumane that veterinarians are forbidden from using it in a similar fashion to euthanize animals.

"Today's execution demonstrates the terrible dilemma of lethal injection as medical charade. On the one hand, this 'medicalized' killing procedure, which uses IV tubing, anesthetic drugs, and other medical equipment, becomes torture in the hands of unqualified individuals. On the other hand, the involvement of medical professionals such as physicians and nurses in executions violates the fundamental ethics of these professions."

"No human, regardless of his or her crime, should be subjected to the torture that Mr. Clark faced. The barbarity of this execution is making news headlines around the world. I urge Ohio's political leaders to call for a moratorium on lethal injection immediately."


Dr. Groner is an associate professor of surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. He has written and spoke extensively on lethal injection and the medicalization of capital punishment.