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Ohio Prisoner Experiences ‘Air Hunger’ While Being Put to Death, Attorney Contends

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Posted on Jan 17, 2014
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Condemned Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, who was convicted in 1994 of rape and murder, was put to death Thursday with a two-drug combination that was being used for the first time. McGuire had to undergo the “medical phenomenon known as air hunger” for more than 15 minutes before finally dying, his family and lawyer allege.

According to Harvard anesthesia professor David Waisel, who based his analysis on the execution reports, McGuire seems to have never been fully asleep as the drugs were killing him. Waisel described air hunger as “the incredible need to take a breath and being unable to. You’re starving to breathe.” This resulted in McGuire making “snorting noises” after the drugs were already injected. 

Ohio will likely face a suit from McGuire’s son and daughter, who contend the state’s actions toward their father amounted to torture. Ohio Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden, in urging a federal judge to allow the execution to go forward, had argued that “you’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.” Al-Jazeera America has more here.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman

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