UnNews:US running out of lethal-injection drugs

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22 January 2011

If current trends continue, death-row inmates like this one will have to administer their own lethal injections to eliminate the chance of lawsuits.

WACO, Texas -- The United States may be running out of vendors for the drugs used in lethal injections, a crisis that would first be felt here in the death penalty capital of the world.

All drugs made in America must be certified safe and effective, and that applies to lethal injections, which must be unsafe to be effective. America has turned abroad for its supplies, but foreign governments are refusing to cooperate. Hospira Inc. sought to move drug manufacturing to Italy--but the government demanded assurances that the products would not be used to execute inmates. Although there are plenty of other fine uses for fast-acting human poison, the company would not make the promise.

To ensure the death experience is soothing and painless, U.S. states now use a cocktail with more ingredients than Senior UNNEWS editors use for the same purpose. But, in all but one of the 35 states with a death penalty, sodium thiopental is in the mix. (Missouri makes death-row convicts eat "Pop Rocks" candy until their stomachs explode.) The shortage has already delayed executions in four states, and the risk is that inmates might file lawsuits--for example, for breach of contract--rivaling the lawsuits for "cruel and unusual punishment" filed on the other side. Oklahoma, instead, puts convicts in fur suits and calls the vet in to "put Fido to sleep."

Jason Clark, curator of the "Old Sparky" Museum of Capital Punishment here, says Texas will find a way to weather the shortage. He notes that the firing squad has a long and venerable history, despite the nagging problem that eager marksmen in Texas tend to encircle the convict.