Dyslexic Execution MD Worked for Feds, Not Just Missouri

Remember Dr. Alan R. Doerhoff of Jefferson City, Mo? He's the dyslexic physician who administered the doses of chemicals during state executions and previously admitted "sometimes giving inmates smaller amounts of anesthesia than the state had said was its policy."

Turns out Dr. Doerhoff has also been working on federal executions at the Death House in Terre Haute, IN.

The doctor barred by a federal judge from performing executions in Missouri is part of the federal government's secret execution team at its death chamber in Indiana, according to court documents filed in a death penalty appeal.

When Dr. Doerhoff testified before the federal court that banned his participation in state executions in June, 2006, the media didn't report his name. That changed a month later.

The Post-Dispatch reported his name the following month and revealed that he had been sued for malpractice more than 20 times, denied staff privileges by two hospitals and reprimanded by the state Board of Healing Arts for failing to disclose the lawsuits to a hospital where he was treating patients.

A lawsuit filed by six federal death row inmates two months ago alleges Dr. Doerhoff is now a member of the Terre Haute execution team:


Passages of the public version of the filing that identifies Doerhoff were blacked out, but the context left no doubt that Doerhoff is the person it credits with "development of execution procedures" and "placing and monitoring intravenous lines, monitoring levels of consciousness and making determinations of death" at Terre Haute.

How did Doerhoff get the federal job? It's not clear, but do you think this is a coincidence?

The U.S. attorney general at the time the government resumed the death penalty was John Ashcroft, the former Missouri governor and senator. Doerhoff, a surgeon from the Jefferson City, testified that he'd been involved with Missouri executions since 1989.

More on Dr. Doerhoff:

Over the course of Doerhoff’s testimony, Anders uncovered many significant details similar to those uncovered in other states. For instance, Doerhoff testified that executions in Missouri have taken place in the dark, an execution team working by flashlight, and that the execution team routinely consists of “nonmedical people.”

For most, the day of the execution is “the first time probably in their life they have picked up a syringe . . . so it’s a little stressful for them to be doing this.”

Doerhoff stated that he determined if an inmate being executed had been adequately anesthetized by observing the condemned’s face through a window, which others noted was obscured by partly opened blinds. He also told the court that he reduced by half the five grams of anesthetic he had been using after the pharmaceutical company supplying it started packaging it in smaller bottles, which made it tricky to get the five grams in a single syringe. When Anders asked if he used calculations to determine the quantities of drugs to administer, he replied, “Heavens, no.”

Later Anders asked, “Is any part of the execution procedure written down?” “I’ve never seen it.” “There’s no guide that you follow as you’re doing it?” “Absolutely not.”

[Source: The New York Times, The Needle and The Damage Done, 2/11/07]

One of the Terre Haute death row inmates who filed the pleading is James Roane Jr. I'll be checking his filing on PACER and report back if there are additional newsworthy details in it. While it's redacted in places, the AP says it's evident it's Doerhoff is the subject.

[hat tip: Sentencing Law and Policy]

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  • Display: Sort:
    Disgusting (none / 0) (#1)
    by eric on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 07:08:21 PM EST
    Does dyslexia also come with some kind of lack of a conscience?

    In the dark?

    We are barbarians.

    well, look on the positive side, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 10:32:23 PM EST
    if he's busy with executions, he won't have time to harm any more patients.

    i don't think dyslexia has as much to do with this as arrogance and incompetence do. i suspect they had a hard time finding a competent dr. who would do this.