'Agony and Horror' in Ohio Execution

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison. (Wikipedia Commons)

The case of Dennis McGuire, an Ohio man sentenced to death for rape and murder, has raised questions about the future of death penalty execution in the United States.

Ohio officials executed McGuire last Thursday by using a new, two-drug, lethal injection protocol recently developed by the state. The procedure had not been tested before McGuire's death, and eyewitness accounts indicate that McGuire suffered excruciating pain before he died, with several news outlets reporting that it took him up to 25 minutes to die

Dr. David Waisel is an anesthesiologist at Boston Children's Hospital. He served as an expert witness for McGuire's defense team, and he testified that McGuire would suffer "agony and horror" before he died. By all accounts, he was right. Dr. Waisel joins The Takeaway to discuss why this combination of drugs was used.


Dr. David Waisel

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [13]

Edie from Davis, CA

I am shocked at Ohio's decision to pursue this particular drug combination, and administration method (intramuscular injection, which has a slow onset as compared to intravenous/IV), as means of execution, especially in the face of expert advice not to do so. I am a veterinarian and very experienced with euthanasia. I would never, never euthanize an animal with this combination of drugs and in this way. I don't disagree with the death penalty but believe we should not do it until we can do it equitably. This was cruel and inhumane, as were the crimes this man committed. We absolutely can do better.

Jan. 22 2014 03:59 PM

Google the victim's name - read what he did to her and her unborn child. Joy Stewart. His execution wasn't even close to enough considering what he did.

Jan. 22 2014 03:56 PM
Jeff from St. Paul, MN

This man was a rapist and murderer. It doesn't matter what he felt. It's just too bad we can't shoot anymore. It'd be cheaper and easier. An easy Google search will tell you what this man did and the horror he inflicted on that family.

Jan. 22 2014 02:52 PM
Abigail Baker from Rhode Island

OK, so now that I read the links I see that Dr. Waisel is a paid expert for the defense team, hence his rather absurd comment "agony and horror." I am , however, concerned that a 115 kg man would receive such a low dose of midaz; the drug is lipophilic but dirt cheap so why not give 100mg. Nowhere can I find the dose of hydromorphone administered but it is another inexpensive generic with multiple producers (no need to worry about curtailing our supply of propofol) so why not go big. If we are to accept the death penalty then let us not save pennies on the manner of death.

Jan. 22 2014 02:17 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Just because the man was a monster, does not mean we have to lose our humanity.

Sounds like when the Doctor said,"He will suffer agony and horror," the State nodded their heads in agreement as to how they wanted him to die.

Jan. 22 2014 02:04 PM
pratt from vashon island, wa

Regarding execution by injection, I do not understand why the efficacy that veterinarians wield against our terminally ill pets cannot be achieved with the condemned. My dog died before the syringe was empty.

Jan. 22 2014 01:20 PM

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

So let’s take a moment to recall the last day on Earth of McGuire’s victim, Joy Stewart.

Joy Stewart, 22, was nearly eight months pregnant when she encountered McGuire in Preble County, Ohio, while visiting a friend on Feb. 11, 1989. McGuire would first blame her kidnapping and murder on his brother-in-law. Authorities took his words seriously because he knew things about the crime that had not been made public, such as the anal rape of the victim, and he led them to the murder weapon, a knife, hidden in a farm hayloft. But McGuire’s accusation didn’t hold up and DNA evidence excluded the brother-in-law but implicated McGuire.

McGuire sought sex from Joy Stewart but she refused and he raped her. According to court documents, McGuire said that “because she was so pregnant it was difficult to engage in sex with her, so he anally sodomized her. Joy then became ‘hysterical,’ which made McGuire nervous. He ended up killing Joy for fear that he would go to jail for raping a pregnant woman.”

He choked her. Then he stabbed her with the knife he used to forcibly rape her. His first thrust “caused no significant injury,” according to the autopsy report. His second blow inflicted a 4½-inch cut in her throat and severed her carotid artery and jugular vein. He wiped blood off his hands on her right arm and dumped her in a wooded area where she was found the next day by hikers.

Sometime between her death and when her body was found, her unborn baby died. Her grave marker indicates she intended to name her baby Carl, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Her husband Kenny committed suicide within a year after her murder, reports the newspaper. Joy’s sister, Carol Avery, said their parents were devastated: “They never fully recovered and both died knowing that her killer still lived.”

End quote.

Jan. 22 2014 01:18 PM
maureen from Detroit

Who cares what this man might have felt? Why worry about him? His kids did not have to watch his death. And he did not care about the effect his actions had on the family of his victim. Whatever pain he felt was not enough, for them or her.

Jan. 22 2014 12:55 PM
sherree from Oregon

I am sorry his children had to see his death, it would have been wise of them to have said their goodbyes beforehand and not attend the execution. But I wonder if we would even been talking about this if right alongside his execution, a video of him raping and killing his victim could have been shown. His difficult death was a small price to pay for the terror his victim went through during her death. Where is the outrage about that? Does her horrifically frightening suffering just not matter to those feeling sorry for this man? It is SUCH misplaced empathy.

Jan. 22 2014 12:51 PM
Marta Canteli

Are we forgetting the victim hear? What about justice for the poor pregnant mother raped and stabbed? How long did that take? Imagine your own daughter, sister, mother, friend going through that?

Jan. 22 2014 10:33 AM
Laurence Mark, M.D. from NYC

I too am an anesthesiologist. I have not yet been able to hear why Dr. Waisel could ever say that an overdose of midazolam and hydromorphone could possibly cause "agony and horror," but he knows that this is completely untrue. Midazolam can be used to induce general anesthesia, and is often used in ICU's for its calming effects. Hydromorphone is a narcotic, in the same family of drugs as morphine and heroine; and like those drugs is a potent pain killer and respiratory depressant. The gasping typically seen when patients are given these drugs is NOT due to any conscious thought on the part of the person, but rather a direct affect on the midbrain (breathing center) of these people.

Jan. 22 2014 10:16 AM
Michael LaDue from Northern NY

"McGuire, 53, was put to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant newlywed, Joy Stewart."

I can have no sympathy, care, or concern for such an individual who committed such a horrid crime. Maybe if there was less concern for such savage individuals- the world would be a better place. A definite deterrent to atrocious crime ! In this case, the end justifies the means.

Jan. 22 2014 09:55 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Execution is barbaric, no doubt. But today is the March for Life in Washington, 500,000+ people braving the cold. Each year 1 million plus human beings are executed, with no pain relief, and many not quickly, and they are innocent, in our country. Let's stop both.

Jan. 22 2014 09:11 AM

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