The state of Nebraska not only carried out its first execution in 21 years, it also was the first death sentence in the country to be carried out using the potent opioid fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid and the most common drug involved in fatal overdoses in the United States, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is typically used to treat severe pain after surgery and chronic pain in patients who are physically tolerant to other opioids. Fentanyl misuse and abuse is a major contributor to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Carey Dean Moore, 60, was executed Aug. 14 after spending more than 30 years on death row for killing two Omaha cabdrivers in 1979. He did not try to stop the execution or want anyone to intervene on his behalf. He was executed at the state penitentiary in Lincoln.
Moore’s four-drug lethal injection included potassium chloride to stop Moore’s heart, cisatracurium besylate to paralyze his muscles, diazepam to sedate him, and fentanyl to render him unconscious.
Not only is this the first execution in the United States using fentanyl, it also represents a remarkable reversal for Nebraska. In 2015, the state abolished the death penalty. Voters reversed that decision the following year.
Nevada would have been the first state to use the powerful opioid in its lethal injection, but a pharmaceutical company that manufactured one of the drugs in the lethal cocktail filed a lawsuit, leading a judge to halt the execution hours before it was to take place.