Also Known As: Pancuronium, Pavulon
Pancuronium (Pavulon) is a paralytic with various purposes. It is the second of three drugs administered during most lethal injections in the United States.
Pancuronium is used with general anaesthesia in surgery for muscle relaxation and as an aid to intubation or ventilation. It does not have sedative or analgesic effects.
Side-effects include moderately raised heart rate and thereby arterial pressure and cardiac output, excessive salivation, apnea and respiratory depression, rashes, flushing, and sweating. The muscular relaxation can be dangerous in the seriously ill and it can accumulate leading to extended weakness. Pancuronium is not preferable in long-term use in ICU-ventilated patients.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, pancuronium is recommended in the protocol for euthanasia. After administering sodium thiopental to induce coma, pancuronium is delivered in order to stop breathing.
In 2007, Dr Michael Munro, a Scottish neonatologist at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, was cleared of malpractice by the GMC Fitness to Practice panel after giving 23 times the standard dose of pancuronium to two dying neonates. In the final minutes of life, each baby was suffering from agonal gasping and violent body spasms, which was highly distressing for the parents to witness. Dr Munro then administered pancuronium to the babies after advising the parents that this would ease their suffering, but could also hasten death. It is on record that neither of the children's parents was unhappy with Dr Munro's treatment of their babies.