Some states are delaying executions because of a shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug given to prisoners during lethal injections, NPR reports. It’s one of three drugs used for lethal injection in more than 30 states. States’ problems getting the drug could raise questions about the legality of lethal injection. Some states have been trying to get additional supplies of the drug for months. In August, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was asked to sign death warrants for three prisoners but could set only one execution date because it only had a single dose.
Hospira, based in Lake Forest, Il., apparently is the drug’s only manufacturer. The company told Kentucky officials it won’t be available until early next year. Two states, Washington and Ohio, use only sodium thiopental in their executions. They administer enough of the sedative to cause an overdose, which kills the prisoner. “I think it’s definitely a problem,” says James Hardiman, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio. “Even if there is enough for the initial execution, there is not enough for backups. So we’ve got – have had – some very serious concerns about this haphazard method of implementing the ultimate punishment.”