Experimenting with Death: Baze v. Rees, the Execution of Dennis McGuire, and the Constitutionality of Experimenting with Lethal Injection Drugs

Author: Johnny Holschuh, Contributing Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

The “horrific” execution of Dennis McGuire by the state of Ohio in January 2014 has aroused international attention regarding the death penalty. The decision by the Southern District of Ohio denying McGuire’s federal petition challenging Ohio’s use of a new drug combination in his execution demonstrates the inability of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Baze v. Rees test to ensure that rapidly changing execution protocols utilizing new drugs and dosages to kill condemned inmates do not violate the Eighth Amendment. With both international and domestic law prohibiting non-consensual scientific experimentation on humans, the legitimacy of the Baze test and the legality of experimenting with lethal injection drugs must be reconsidered.

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