Last October, Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan using sodium thiopental imported from England. Other states also acquired this drug from the UK – but many of them (but not Arizona) have since had their supply confiscated by the DEA.
One of those states is Georgia which, in seeking to execute Troy Davis, is now scrambling to find an alternative drug. Last Friday it appeared that they were close to a decision to replace sodium thiopental with pentobarbital. This latter is rapidly becoming the drug of choice for our nation’s executioners, as Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi have all switched to it.
The company that makes the drug these four states are using, Lundbeck, is also based in Europe (Denmark), although the drug itself may be manufactured in the US. The EU is supposed to have a ban on the trade in “tools of torture”, but a loophole allowed these exports of lethal injection drugs from the UK last fall, and this loophole clearly needs to be closed. That is why Amnesty International is promoting a petition to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to ban the use of EU sourced drugs for US executions.
While these drugs should be banished from US execution chambers, Amnesty is not calling for an end to the manufacture or exporting of drugs which have legitimate and important medical uses; simply for the EU to insist that these drugs don’t end up being used for the opposite of their intended purpose – for killing instead of healing.