The U.S. is facing a shortage of a drug widely used for lethal injections, reports NPR. With few options, states are turning to new drugs and compounding pharmacies, rather than overseas companies. The move is raising safety concerns, and delaying some executions. Other executions are proceeding, amid questions on whether the use of new drugs violates the inmates’ Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
Executing murderer William Happ on Oct. 15, Florida decided to use a new drug — a sedative called midazolam that had never been tested for execution. “While it wasn’t dramatically different than previous executions, it did seem that it took him longer to lose consciousness,” says Associated Press reporter Brendan Farrington. There’s no way to know if Happ was in pain during his last moments. Some anesthesia experts have expressed concern that midazolam and other untested sedatives could fail to work properly during an execution. If that happened, condemned prisoners could die slowly or painfully, a violation of legal guidelines for executions.