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Drug Florida uses at center of Texas fight

By Associated Press
Published December 14, 2003

JACKSONVILLE - One of the drugs Florida uses to execute condemned killers is being challenged by inmates in Texas who have won appellate court reprieves arguing the drug has been banned from being used on animals.

The two states and 28 others execute prisoners by injecting the same three-drug cocktail that includes pancuronium bromide, a drug that paralyzes muscles, including the diaphragm.

Opponents of the drug's usage say it can cause prisoners to suffocate before they lose consciousness and is so cruel that some veterinarians won't use it to euthanize animals.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said state officials are monitoring the cases, but said Florida has no plans to stop using pancuronium bromide, which it has used in 13 executions since 2000. Florida has 363 prisoners on death row, but no scheduled executions.

Florida started using lethal injection after court challenges were launched alleging that use of the electric chair constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Abe Bonowitz, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said: "This is a lot worse than what we use to euthanize animals," he said. "It paralyzes (the prisoners) before their lungs collapse."

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