An anesthetic used in lethal injections will no longer be made by its only U.S. manufacturer because the company does not want it to be used in executions, forcing states that allow the death penalty to look for other suppliers.
Hospira Inc said on Friday that sodium thiopental has been in short supply for about a year because of manufacturing problems.
The company was planning to shift production to its plant in Liscate, Italy, but the Italian parliament will only allow the drug to be made there if Hospira can guarantee that it will not be used in capital punishment.
Italy is a member of the European Union, which has banned the death penalty and criticized the United States for allowing it.
Sodium thiopental is the first of a sequence of three drugs administered in U.S. lethal injections that paralyze breathing and stop the heart. A sedative is legally required in all lethal injections of U.S. death row inmates
“This is not how the drug is intended to be used,” Tareta Adams, a spokeswoman for Hospira, said in a telephone interview. “We’ve decided we’re no longer going to work to bring the drug back.”
Adams said Hospira typically distributes the drug through wholesalers, making it difficult to guarantee that it will not end up in the hands of U.S. correctional authorities.
At least two U.S. states that execute inmates through lethal injection have already tried to import sodium thiopental from a British company, the name of which has not been disclosed. London-based human rights group, Reprieve, sued the British government in November to stop export of the drug.
Texas, one of the United States’ biggest users of the lethal drug combination, is looking for alternative drugs, according to Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Well, the states could always return to either the gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad or hanging – all of which are more painful than lethal injection. But, oh well.
I see a market for another company or a company offshore making the drug. Or, like Oklahoma they could use pentobarbital (Nembutal) which is used for executions in China, in animal euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.