Back in 2010, the pharmaceutical giant Hospira Inc. asked Ohio to not use its drug, the anesthetic sodium thiopental, in executions. Ohio, like other states, refused, so Hospira stopped making the drug.
Then Ohio, like other states, switched to a new anesthetic called pentobarbital. Its manufacturer, Lundbeck, also asked Ohio to not use it in executions. Again, Ohio, like other states, refused. Lundbeck is now actively taking steps to prevent future batches of this drug from getting into the hands of executioners. So, with 12 executions scheduled between now and May 2013, Ohio is facing yet another execution drug shortage.
What now? Ohio is considering switching drugs again. Its choices include a drug that helped kill Michael Jackson (propofol), or a combination of drugs that could cause convulsions or vomiting (midazolam and hydromorphone). (No word on whether Ohio might consider even cheaper alternatives.)
Another choice might be to just stop killing people. Happily, just such an option is available. A bill repealing Ohio’s hopelessly dysfunctional death penalty may get a hearing in early October. Perhaps this never-ending lethal injection drug farce will give it some momentum. When we kill with drugs meant to heal, or kill to send a message that our society won’t tolerate killing, the moral contradiction is so vast that it should be patently obvious. Healing drugs should be used for healing, and the best way to show that killing is unacceptable is to not kill.