Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Drug Shortage May Impact Executions

The Associated Press reported Monday that several of the 35 states that rely on sodium thiopental to carry-out executions by lethal injection are having trouble finding the drug after the sole U.S. manufacturer delayed shipment until January at the earliest because of manufacturing problems.

According to Austin American-Statesman, some states have delayed executions. Other states are struggling to find a supplier for executions slated later this year.

The American-Statesman, addressed a number of states that have taken some action or indicated a position regarding the presumed drug shortage and its impact on executions. The list of states is below:

On Monday, California announced it will halt all executions after Sept. 30 because of the shortage.
An Oklahoma judge last month delayed one execution when the state tried to switch anesthetics after running out of its regular supply. While enough sodium thiopental was finally obtained from another state, the court-ordered delay remains in effect.

In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear several weeks ago held off signing death warrants to allow executions to proceed for two convicts because the state is almost out of sodium thiopental. The state's lone dose hits its expiration date Oct. 1, and officials have said they so far have been unsuccessful in purchasing additional doses.

In Arizona, officials initially said the state did not have the drug and were not optimistic about obtaining it in time for an Oct. 26 execution. But they have since said they placed an order and expect to have it by next week.

Virginia on Thursday executed the first woman put to death in the United States since 2005. But officials have since suggested that the state could have a problem after that, though it has no further executions scheduled.

Missouri has enough sodium thiopental for an October execution, officials said, but its supply expires in January. Ohio ran out of the amount of sodium thiopental that state procedures call for just three days before a May 13 execution.

Texas, the most prolific state in terms of executions, does not plan to halt executions. The state suggested a shortage in sodium thiopental would cause them to re-examine their protocol and utilize other drugs to carry out their executions. "We have three executions scheduled through the end of this year, and we have an ample supply to carry those out," Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville told the American-Statesman. "At the present, we are unaffected by the shortage."

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