Amid Drug Shortage, Execution States Make Changes “Rapidly and Carelessly”


Manufacturers’ decisions to cut off supplies of drugs, some of which had been widely used in executions for decades, has left many of the nation's 32 death penalty states scrambling to come up with new drugs and protocols, the New York Times reports. Some states have changed their laws to keep the names of lethal-drug suppliers private as a way to encourage them to provide drugs. Florida ran out of its primary lethal-injection drug last month and relied on a new drug that no state had used for an execution. Ohio is planning to use a two-drug combination for the first time.

The uncertainty is leading to delays in executions because of legal challenges, raising concerns that condemned inmates are being inadequately anesthetized before executions and leading the often-macabre process of state-sanctioned executions into a continually shifting legal and bureaucratic terrain. “We have seen more changes in lethal injection protocols in the last five years than we have seen in the last three decades,” said Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School. “These states are just scrambling for drugs, and they're changing their protocols rapidly and carelessly.”

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