State accesses drug for execution from Lake Area hospital

State accesses drug for execution from Lake Area hospital

A Lake Charles hospital filled a request from the State Department of Corrections for a medicine used to relieve pain and suffering, but as it turns out, the state obtained the medicine for use in an execution.

Recent botched executions have created more scrutiny about the drugs used for the death penalty, their effectiveness and where they come from.  As Christopher Sepulvado's execution date approached, an online news outlet, The Lens, began investigating the source of drugs to be used for his lethal injection. The execution is on hold, but The Lens found out one drug -- hydromorphone -- was obtained from Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

LCMH officials say they don't intend to get involved in a debate about the death penalty, but they do confirm, when the drug was provided, it was intended for  medical use.

"We were contacted back in January. Our pharmacist here at Memorial, from a pharmacist at the Hunt Medical Center, saying that they needed the drug, hydromorphone, for a medical patient, and at that time we complied with the request. At no time did Memorial believe or was led to believe that the drug would be used for an execution," said Matt Felder, spokesman for LCMH.

Memorial Hospital Board Member, Judge Gene Thibodeaux, says in the article they've been assured it will not happen again. Thibodeaux did not want to appear on camera.

Still, the difficulty and secrecy surrounding execution drugs is a growing concern. Defense attorney Tom Lorenzi is on the Louisiana Public Defender Board. 

"I understand their being upset. It has to do with health care, like first, do no harm. There's a lot of people that are very much in favor of the death penalty that think that it's wrong for many health care companies to say we don't want to be part of killing people, but then, health care companies in general are in the business of trying to help people, not to help kill people," said Lorenzi.

A bill to allow  State Department of Corrections to hide information about its execution drugs was shelved in the end during this past legislative session. Such issues will likely be resolved in the courts.

"The drugs, if that's how we're going to do this, should be subject to testing and a protocol that ensures that they're going to be effective,  such that there is not going to be a cruel and inhumane death," said Lorenzi.

We called the Louisiana DOC for comment but have not heard back from them.   

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