Did Executed Ohio Inmate Experience Air Hunger?

Ever heard of “air hunger?”

When air hunger occurs in people who are close to death, it often triggers increasing panic and breathlessness.


“Air hunger” was raised by Dennis McGuire’s attorneys as a last ditch basis to have a stay of execution granted.

As noted just yesterday:

The state planned to execute McGuire on Thursday with a new process adopted after supplies of its previous drug dried up when the manufacturer put it off limits for capital punishment. The two-drug combination has never been used in a U.S. execution.

Ohio officials planned to use intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death.

McGuire’s attorneys say he is at substantial risk of a medical phenomenon known as air hunger, which will cause him to experience terror as he strains to catch his breath.


See also:


McGuire was executed and was pronounced dead at 10:53 am. It was a “successful execution”, borrowing the expression from head executioner Paul Edgecomb in the Green Mile. “Successful” in that McGuire was in fact dead. The success story starts with McGuire’s injection at 10:29 am, and ends at 10:53 am once pronounced dead. Although, apparently, an execution can drag on a “bit”, the issue that may warrant scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment is the how the inmate experienced the prolonged execution:

It is not unheard of for an execution to take 15 minutes or even longer, but Dieter told the network that if the prisoner was physically struggling much of that time, it could be seen as cruel. [RA: note that this execution lasted 24 minutes]


Perhaps not the likes of the Green Mile, but there is a hint that air hunger may have reached the threshold that distinguishes “normal” from “pathological”:

Reports from McGuire’s death chamber suggest this may have in fact occurred.

As such, the appropriateness of the drugs, and the extent to which they may be cruel, will likely be reviewed by Ohio officials before they are used in another execution.

Meanwhile, back to the “norm”, and continued search for improved Eighth Amendment resistant methods of execution.

For a good read on the Eighth Amendment see:


And an article on some botched executions:




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