A condemned Ohio killer who is due to be executed tomorrow, could face an agonizing death where he struggles to breathe in the last few minutes of his life.
Inmate Dennis McGuire’s lawyers had argued that the combination of the sedative midozolam and painkiller hydropmorphone could lead to a painful and terrifying phenomenon called ‘air hunger’ before he actually dies.
It’s the first time such a cocktail of drugs have been used in the state in this way, and the effects are unknown so much so that some have described the method as akin to an ‘experiment’.
Lawyers for McGuire have attempted to stop his execution on the grounds he could experience a terrifying sensation of suffocation and that his sentencing him to death is unconstitutionally cruel.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost said the condemned man did not present enough evidence that there is ‘a substantial risk’ he will experience the “severe pain” that would constitute a violation of the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Last year, 450-pound inmate Ronald Post argued he was so overweight he could not be put to death humanely. Double-killer Richard Cooey made a similar argument in 2008.
In 2010, serial rapist Darryl Durr argued he might be violently allergic to Ohio’s execution drug.
Each time, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost, a veteran of the state’s capital punishment legal challenges, ultimately allowed the execution to proceed. In his latest ruling, he said Monday that McGuire had failed to present evidence he would suffer breathing problems alleged by his attorneys – a phenomenon known as ‘air hunger’ – and said the risk to McGuire is within constitutional limits..
Also, because McGuire has several characteristics of sleep apnea, or the struggle to breathe while asleep, the chances are even greater he will be subjected to feelings of suffocation, an expert has warned.
‘Mr. McGuire is at a substantial risk of experiencing the terror of air hunger during the first five minutes of the execution,’ Professor David Waisel, of Harvard Medical School, said.
‘Air hunger is a horrible feeling,’ Waisel added. ‘It’s the inability to get your breath.’