Ohio Senate continues debate on bill to shield source of state's lethal injection drugs

Companies providing Ohio with lethal injection drugs would have their names shielded for at least 20 years, under a bill scheduled for a possible vote that lawmakers say is needed to restart executions in the state.

The measure before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday requires a drugmaker to specifically ask for anonymity, rather than receive it automatically, under an agreement that would allow release of the company's name 20 years after it last provides drugs to the state.

The anonymity is aimed at so-called compounding pharmacies that mix doses of specialty drugs.

The bill, already passed by the House, also would prevent drugmakers from prohibiting through contracts the use of their drugs for capital punishment.

Ohio hasn't executed an inmate since January, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted for 26 minutes before dying, during a procedure using a never tried combination of a sedative and painkiller. It was Ohio's longest execution.

Further questions about those drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, arose after Arizona used them during its nearly two-hour execution of an inmate in July.

Ohio's first choice for an execution drug is compounded pentobarbital, a version of pentobarbital not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Missouri and Texas, which shield the identity of their drug source, have used compounded pentobarbital successfully several times. But Ohio has been unable to obtain it.

Proponents of the Ohio bill, including Rep. Jim Buchy, a Republican from Greenville, say the secrecy is necessary for Ohio to get supplies of the drug. They say it would protect companies from harassment over supplying the drugs.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Society of Professional Journalists, say secrecy erodes confidence in the execution process. They also say threats of harassment are overblown.

Overseas, the European Union says it's keeping a close eye on the bill since the EU is opposed to capital punishment under all circumstances.

Last year the Missouri Department of Corrections dropped plans to use propofol as an execution drug because of concerns that the move could create a shortage of the popular anesthetic if the EU restricted its export.

"We believe that the elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the protection of human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights," said EU spokeswoman Catherine Ray.


Associated Press writer John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this report.