Lethal Injection Challenges Junk Up the System - Again
Last week the German pharmaceutical industry announced it wouldn’t sell sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states in lethal injection procedures, if it were going to be used in executions. This announcement came just days after Hospira Inc. said they would no longer be manufacturing the drug.
The nation’s supplies of sodium thiopental were already dwindling. Executions have been delayed in some states, while others have looked to foreign sources to get supplies of the drug that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Two states have switched to a different drug, prompting the manufacturer to announce that they oppose their drug being used for executions.
There seems to be no quick fix for this quagmire. Some states may have to go through a regulatory oversight process or change their laws if they decide to change their lethal injection protocols. Meanwhile, states using non-FDA approved drugs may face additional legal challenges.
The details of how the state carries out executions is no trivial matter, and in matters of life and death the details shouldn’t be developed in secret, or carried out by people who don’t know what they’re doing, or many of the other problems that have plagued lethal injection for the last several years. But those don’t mask the larger realities of the death penalty – it’s unfairness and inaccuracies, the drain on state budgets, the harmful impact on victims’ families, and more.
The legal morass of lethal injection is just the latest chapter in a long story. Because a life is on the line, the death penalty system will always come under the microscope, and it should. But I think we’ll find that it will always be messy, complicated, and costly.