Monday, July 31, 2006

'Read my lips: I don't do them'

On Sunday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a front-page, above-the-fold expose in which the newspaper revealed that a doctor who has overseen more than 50 executions in Missouri had numerous legal and ethical problems, including being sued for malpractice more than 20 times, being disciplined by a state medical board, having his treatment privileges suspended at several local hospitals and failing to report his lawsuits and ethics violations when required.

The doctor oversaw executions in that he would set up the IV lines, prepare the chemicals, etc. He did everything except press the buttons that caused the chemicals to flow into the inmates.

When asked about his role in executions, he replied, "Read my lips: I don't do them."

Reuters picked up the story yesterday; it ran on page A-2 of today's Washington Post. I am appending their shortened version below. You can see the full St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by going here.

Mo. Execution Doctor Had History of Errors

Monday, July 31, 2006; A02
KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 30 -- A doctor who oversaw dozens of Missouri executions until his questionable practices led a judge to suspend executions in the state has been sued for malpractice more than 20 times and has a history of making medical mistakes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

Alan R. Doerhoff, 62, also has been banned from at least two Missouri hospitals and was publicly reprimanded by the state's Board of Healing Arts in 2003 because he was trying to conceal malpractice claims from hospitals where he was working, the newspaper reported.

The state attorney general's office was aware of the reprimand, but the state Department of Corrections continued to employ Doerhoff to handle lethal injections, the Post-Dispatch said.
Doerhoff, who had already supervised 48 executions, supervised six more after the reprimand, the newspaper reported. The inmate who would have been the seventh -- Michael A. Taylor, who raped and murdered a teenager in Kansas City in 1989 -- appealed earlier this year.

The state tried to keep Doerhoff's identity a secret in the appeal by Taylor, who said the heart-stopping drug given in lethal injections can cause excruciating pain if the inmate is not first given proper levels of anesthesia.

Lawyers reviewing execution logs found that the anesthesia Doerhoff had prepared for Taylor's execution before it was stayed in February was only half the amount it should have been, and records of previous executions indicated similar improperly prepared doses.

The doctor then admitted that he was dyslexic and sometimes transposed numbers.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan suspended executions until the state hires a board-certified anesthesiologist to ensure that the drugs in lethal injections are properly prepared.

The Post-Dispatch said that when a reporter approached Doerhoff at his home Thursday and asked about his role in executions, he replied, "Read my lips: I don't do them."

Then, the newspaper reported, Doerhoff shut the door.

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