Maryland Lethal Injection Regs for Public Comment

July 31, 2009

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services recently proposed new regulations for lethal injection procedures.  Executions in Maryland have been at a halt since 2005, when a court of appeals ruling found that the execution protocols were illegally adopted.  If the regulations are adopted, they will move the state closer to resuming use of the death penalty.   These regulations have now been published in the Maryland Register, and they are open for comment for the next 30 days.

According to the regulations:

“Comments may be sent to Randy Watson, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Correction, 6776 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, MD 21215-2342, or call 410-585-3300. Comments will be accepted through August 31, 2009. A public hearing has not been scheduled.”

These new regulations do not appear to address any of the major problems inherent in the use of lethal injection. Among many other things, the regulations propose that:

  • Executions would continue using a drug – pancuronium bromide – that is not even permitted for use in euthanizing animals. Medical officials have consistently warned that the combination of drugs proposed here may cause the prisoner a very painful death, and indeed several such botched executions using these drugs have occurred.  
  • A certified paramedic must be on duty in some capacity during the execution, either as a part of the execution or standing right outside of the area where the execution takes place.  A licensed physician would also have to be present.  These proposals could result in violations of AMA ethical guidelines

There are currently five men on death row in Maryland. While these regulations would not mean that executions would immediately start happening, it does mean that de facto moratorium on executions would end.

Resuming executions would be a huge step backwards for the state of Maryland. Despite a long fight in recent years, the death penalty still has not been outlawed in the state, though it has been restricted. But the current moratorium on executions, coupled with the historically infrequent use of the practice in the state, gives hope that Maryland is not far from joining the other fifteen states (plus D.C.) that have outlawed capital punishment.