St. Thomas Law Review


Cynthia Ventura

First Page


Document Type



In Florida, lethal injection has been the primary method of execution since the 1990s. The Florida Department of Corrections recently amended its protocol by replacing all three drugs previously used. The first administered lethal dose is now etomidate, an anesthetic that has never been used in the United States as a lethal injection drug. This Comment discusses the lack of empirical research available to support the state of Florida's use of etomidate as an appropriate method of rendering a prisoner unconscious prior to administering the second and third injections. First, this Comment will provide a brief background of the history of the death penalty in the United States, its temporary abolition in Furman, and the administration of capital punishment post-Furman. Second, this Comment will discuss Florida's capital sentencing scheme and the procedures for administering lethal injection, along with the amended protocol implemented as of January 4, 2017. Next, this Comment will outline the substantial risks associated with use of etomidate as a lethal injection drug and its opening the door for prisoner claims of cruel and unusual punishment. Lastly, this Comment will propose a solution to the possibility of endless litigation concerning constitutional violations with use of etomidate by calling for the discontinuation of use of etomidate until further medical literature and research is available regarding the substantial risk of harm and pain, as well as discontinued use until further research is conducted regarding the new, specific drugs which have replaced all three injections previously used in Florida, to determine their safety and efficacy when used in combination.