Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Death Penalty Executions Delayed Due to Drug Shortage - Associated Content - associatedcontent.com

Converted Gas Chamber, San Quentin

Death Penalty Executions Delayed Due to Drug Shortage - Associated Content - associatedcontent.com

Hospira an Illinois based company suspended the production of Pentothal. Pentothal consists of sodium thiopental, which is one of the three drugs combined to create the lethal injection commonly used in death penalty executions.

Sodium thiopental is a barbiturate primarily used to anesthetize surgical patients, induce medical comas and sometimes to euthanize animals.

Hospira is the sole producer of the drug and reports that the shortage could last until next March. The company claims that the shortage is due to unspecified problems with its raw-material suppliers.

As a result of the shortage, several of the 17 prisoners condemned to be put to death by the end of January are likely to receive a temporary reprieve.

33 of the 35 states that still put prisoners to death use the three-drug approach. The remaining two, Ohio and Washington, have opted for using a single heavy dose of sodium thiopental.

Oklahoma and Kentucky have already postponed scheduled executions. Arizona does not have the drug and anticipates that a scheduled October execution will be delayed.

On September 29, after a five-year ban on the death penalty, California was scheduled to execute Albert Greenwood, convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1980; that execution will likely not be carried out.

In Oklahoma, two convicted killers are scheduled for lethal injections and only one dose of the drug needed to execute them is available.

Matters became complicated for Oklahoma when the drug shortage pushed back the execution of 38-year-old Jeffrey Matthews who was scheduled to die Aug. 17 for the murder of one of his relatives during a burglary.

Officials wanted to use a substitute drug; Matthews' attorneys objected and a judge stayed his execution until October 16. Prison officials say they have since secured one dose of sodium thiopental for his execution, and they planned to use it on Matthews.

However, attorneys for Donald Wackerly, the second inmate scheduled for execution before Matthews, claim the substitute that his client will receive is inappropriate and possibly inhumane.

A judge then ruled the single dose of sodium thiopental should be used on Wackerly, who was convicted of murdering a fisherman during a robbery in 1996, instead of Matthews.

Matthews' attorneys then successfully obtained another hearing to further delay his execution, citing potential problems with the sedative switch.

What a mess, to say the least. Death Penalty Information Center Director Richard Dieter likened the mess in Oklahoma to “Russian Roulette.”

Skepticism regarding the merits of the shortage exists because of Hospira’s stance against their products being utilized in executions. Hospira sent out letters last March containing the following statement:

“Hospira provides these products because they improve or save lives and markets them solely for use as indicated on the product labeling. As such, we do not support the use of any of our products in capital punishment procedures.”

The one state not experiencing shortage issues is Texas,
the nation's busiest death penalty state. Texas has enough of the drug on hand to carry out the three executions scheduled before the end of the year, which would bring its total number of executions for 2010 to 15.

States looking to avoid protracted delays in pending executions will undoubtedly face legal challenges if they seek to use an alternative drug to replace Pentothal, which is Hospira’s brand name for sodium thiopental.

Pentothal, part of the three-drug cocktail that creates the lethal injection, is designed to sedate inmates before they are injected with the drugs that paralyze them and stop their hearts.



Libertas said...

I caught this one a second time around. Keep the awareness flowing.

ilovemyhouse said...

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