Thursday, May 29, 2014

Oklahoma's Bothced Execution

I have to say-- this is probably something your state doesn't want to be known for. Last post, I discussed how EU pharmaceutical companies are refusing to allow their drugs to be used in executions.

More recently, was the botched execution of Oklahoma prisoner, Clayton Lockett.

What's interesting is that in Oklahoma, the drug cocktail was kept "secret" by law and therefore was prohibitive in allowing the prisoner's lawyer to file a cruel and unusual claim because they didn't actually know what they were using. Even though the law was deemed unconstitutional, Clayton only had one month left to live and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals refused to stay the execution.

For the first time, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a stay but got so much political pressure that it reversed itself two days later.

It's hard to piece together exactly what went wrong, but in this CNN account, the IV "blew" which means the vein ruptured and the medication likely went into the tissue versus staying in the venous system which likely delayed the onset of the medication. Reports state death ensued approx 45 minutes after the first drug was given.

They stopped the process but the prisoner succumbed to a heart attack. In my medical opinion, this was caused by the potassium injection.

What is complicating death by lethal injection is the "preferred" drugs for sedation cannot be used due to a mandate by EU pharmaceutical companies so alternatives for the sedative drug are trying to be found.

In the Oklahoma situation-- it says the drugs are administered simultaneously by three different executioners. From a medical standpoint-- this probably isn't wise. A step-fold process would be better. If given one at a time, there would be less pressure on the line and less chance the vein would blow and you could ensure the sedative worked prior to administering the subsequent drugs making for a more "humane" execution.

Because of the problems now with lethal injection, a Utah State Representative is proposing the return of the firing squad

What do you think of the death penalty? Which method do you think is most "humane"?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

European Drug Companies Halt Use of Drugs for Lethal Injection

 As a medical provider, I've seen drugs used on-label (approved by the FDA) and off-label (uses not approved by the FDA.) I've seen people misuse their prescribed medications and I've seen illegal drug use.

What's interesting is that European drug companies are now using a moral standard for supplying drugs to the US-- and that is they don't want them used in executions.

First of all, what are the drugs used in an execution?

1. An anesthetic. This puts the prisoner to sleep.
2. A paralyzing agent. Which stops muscles from working including the muscles of respiration.
2. Potassium Chloride. Which stops the heart from beathing.

The issue with European drug companies was using their drugs to anesthetize prisoners for execution and they began prohibiting the sale of these drugs to prisons or to distribution companies that would then sell them to prisons.

This issue became more intense last fall when the company that manufactures Propofol (which has been blamed for Michael Jackson's death) refused all US sale when they found out it was going to be used in an execution. However, Propofol is widely used in hospitals as sedation for shorter procedures. Its effects wear off quickly which allow patients to wake up sooner from their procedure and subsequently, go home sooner as well.

This ended up not happening to the point where it affected patient care but the EU pharmaceutical companies stand firm in not allowing their drugs to be used for executions.

What about you? Do you think a company should be allowed to use their moral standard when it comes to their product?  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Up and Coming

Hello Redwood's Fans!

How's your week going? Mine-- enjoying the suspense part of Spring. Dark, stormy days.

I tend to not like sunshine. It's too bright. Too cheery. I think because of this, God gave me an uber-optimist, bright and shiny child and a border cut from the same cloth who both LIKE sunshine. If I had to pick an animal I'm most like it would probably be a bat. Needless to say when I posted last week that Spring was my third favorite season-- this led to utter shock to this border.

And then I explained. Thunderstorms. Rain. Lightening. It's a marvel of nature and why I like spring. I mean, the new flowers are cool, too.

How about you? What's your favorite part of spring?

This week it's all about executions. There's been quite a bit of news surrounding executions lately and it's an interesting topic to explore. Do you think a drug company should be able to restrict the use of their medication for something they find objectionable? How would you feel about the return of firing squads?

Hope you'll take in these posts and let me know your thoughts.

Have a great week!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Genetic Haemochromatosis: The Silent Killer

Genetic Hemochromatosis (GH) is a hereditary disorder causing the body to retain the trace mineral iron over and above its requirements. Without iron we couldn’t survive – its instrumental in the transportation of oxygen around the body; but too much iron kill. As the body cannot expel excess iron, it deposits it around our organs — mainly in the liver, pancreas, heart, endocrine glands, and joints, where it turns into a poison.

The subject is close to my heart, having been diagnosed with Genetic Hemochromatosis 10 years ago. I decided to write a humorous spoof thriller to increase awareness, raise funds and bring humor; I believe laughter is the best medicine. ‘The Unexpected Consequences of Iron Overload,’ is a paranormal, romantic, spoof thriller, with 100% of profits being donated to the Hemochromatosis Society.

Jimmy has absorbed iron and is now magnet. After a significant event in which he saves Barbara, the woman of his dreams, from possible death Jimmy realises he can control his magnetism. His life is further complicated after coming to the attention of the KBG - they are interested in all things paranormal, and the CIA who are determined to stop the Russians. Sheila further complicates life for Jimmy. Her father is Irish though she was born in Australia. Unbeknownst to her she has Haemochromatosis and is magnetic but of course, from the Southern hemisphere her polarity is reversed. 

For a disorder that few have heard of, it is surprisingly common. In Europe an estimated one in 200 have the genes linked to it — that’s 3.7 million people.  The Hemochromatosis Society — a charity founded and chaired by Janet Fernau, MBE says “people are suffering from entirely preventable diseases and even facing premature death because of a lack of awareness and testing.” 

Left untreated, this insidious condition causes individuals to develop life-threatening illnesses like diabetes, liver cirrhosis, cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.  The treatment is simple and cheap. The only way to remove iron from the body is via the blood - venesection.  Every pint removed takes with it 200mg of iron and lowers ferritin levels by 25 as the body starts to use the excess stored iron to make new red blood cells.

Hemochromatosis Society - – has as host of resources for people who have the condition.

The preface to The Unexpected Consequences of iron overload is a good layman’s introduction to the subject. In addition, a list of worldwide support groups/resources are included in my book.


At age 52 James Minter was diagnosis with hemochromatosis. He is one of the lucky ones: he found out in time, and has no long-term organ damage. Researching the condition, he discovered there are millions of people who are carriers or have the disorder. The majority are unaware. The opportunity to stop unnecessary suffering is great. As a fiction writer in the humor genre, James wanted to use his creativity to bring hemochromatosis to the fore. He wrote The Unexpected Consequences of Iron Overload.  This is a light-hearted paranormal, romantic, spoof thriller with a serious message. Using the book he spends much of his time raising awareness of hemochromatosis via social media, blogging, presentations, press releases and radio interviews.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dianna T. Benson: A Son's Tale of Traumatic Brain Injury

The term concussion is well known. The medical field refers to a concussion as a TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury. Contact sports are one of the top causes of a TBI, another are MVCs – Motor Vehicle Collisions.

My teenaged son has endured four concussions. The first two as a goalie for the Junior Hurricanes and the third in a MVC. The first one took him out of school for a month and hockey for three months. The second, a year later, was more mild, which is unusual. Typically, a patient suffers a more severe TBI the second time. In the MVC, a classmate was driving them to school when another car struck them. This third TBI ended my son’s hockey career, preventing him from attending the Junior Hockey draft in Canada Spring of 2013.

The problem wasn’t simply that this was his third concussion, although that in itself is a strong reason to end a contact sport career. With this third TBI, a neurologist evaluated him versus just the concussion clinic MDs who’d treated him with the first two. Not only was it his third TBI, but his symptoms were extremely severe, which didn’t make sense to me – the details of the MVC didn’t suggest such injuries for my son: 1) None of the others involved in the crash suffered any injuries 2) No air bags deployed 3) Vehicle damage was minor. As an EMT for nearly a decade, I wondered about underlining health conditions in my son. I also considered he had not fully recovered from the first two concussions and was in denial about his symptoms in order to play hockey.

Sure enough, the neurologist diagnosed my son with hyper-mobile joints (something I already knew but wasn’t aware of the danger with contact sports.) The MD also diagnosed him with mild CP (cerebral palsy), a diagnosis that made sense to me since my son was born in respiratory arrest and was non-verbal and had spasticity until over age two. Both diagnosis are a recipe for injury, especially in contact sports. The MD gently told my son he was done playing goalie forever – it was devastating and crushed him. Understanding his hockey career was over, he admitted he’d ignored symptoms because he had a shot to play Junior Hockey, college hockey, and possibly professional hockey. A life-long athletic competitor myself, I completely understood the denial that led him to ignore his body.

Hyper-mobile joints, while creating an incredibly athletic body, are highly susceptible to any musculoskeletal injury in that individual. For my son, after two TBIs in a contact sport, his hyper-mobile neck was easily and severely whip-lashed in the MVC, jostling his brain fiercely, causing all his concussion symptoms to return and more heightened than ever.

Ten months after the car accident, the fourth TBI occurred December 2013 just days after the neurologist cleared my son to return to his life minus contact sports. The neurologist gave my son the green light to snowboard. That December day on the mountain, my son didn’t even hit his head and he sustained no head trauma – simply snowboarding jostled his brain enough to cause another TBI.   

Even though he’s extremely athletic, my son’s body shouldn’t do what it can to do. The risk of permanent brain damage and partial or full paralysis is too high for him-- something he now understands. I described it to him as this: When Cam Ward (the goalie for the NHL team Carolina Hurricanes) is playing goalie, his body is naturally like a SUV of protection in a MVC. Whereas, for my son, his body is like a motorcycle in a MVC – no protection.

Until Spring 2015, my son is restricted from doing anything with speed, wheels, height or repetition (basically everything fun.) This next year his brain will heal, then little by little he can attempt things (no contact sports ever, though) to see how his body responds. At 6’7” in height and extremely athletic, he appears a medically sound seventeen-year-old, but inside his body tells a different story. 

God works in amazing ways and this is my son’s blessing. Since cerebral palsy only affects motor function, and none of the four TBIs caused him any loss of cognitive abilities, he’s still as annoyingly brilliant as ever and is anxious to head off to college this fall. For now, his goal is to graduate medical school with a degree in neurology and become a neurosurgeon since he feels (understandably so) he can relate to patients’ symptoms with head trauma. 


 Dianna Torscher Benson is a 2014 Selah Award Finalist (winners not yet announced), a 2011 Genesis Winner, a 2011 Genesis double Semi-Finalist, a 2010 Daphne de Maurier Finalist, and a 2007 Golden Palm Finalist. In 2012, she signed a nine-book contract with Ellechor Publishing House. She’s the author of The Hidden Son, her debut novel. Final Trimester is her second release.

After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need.
Dianna lives in North Carolina with her husband and their three children. 

Her releases are available wherever books are sold. Below are the links to Final Trimester at the three largest booksellers: