Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Not with our drugs, you won't!

Those of us who abhor execution have gotten some temporary good news: Hospira, the only U.S. company that manufactures sodium thiopental, has ceased its production:

The sole American manufacturer of an anesthetic widely used in lethal injections said Friday that it would no longer produce the drug, a move likely to delay more executions and force states to adopt new drug combinations.

The manufacturer, Hospira Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., had originally planned to resume production of the drug, sodium thiopental, this winter at a plant in Italy, giving state corrections departments hope that the scarcity that began last fall would ease.

But the Italian authorities said they would not permit export of the drug if it might be used for capital punishment. Hospira said in a statement Friday that its aim was to serve medical customers, but that we could not prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections and the company did not want to expose itself to liability in Italy.

It’s temporary, because states are likely to approve alternative drugs — Oklahoma already uses pentobarbital — but according to the Times, the delay could be considerable because of the process required to get changes approved. Some states (such as Texas, which seems to have an insatiable itch to kill prisoners) clearly will push a new protocol through as quickly as possible, while others may be in less of a hurry.

This is also interesting as a demonstration of how one country can affect another through its policies. We’re used to using embargoes for this, to varying effect, but the problem with embargoes is that they often cause pain to the populace without resulting in policy changes in the government. In this case, Italy’s approach was simple, targeted, and effective.

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