Lacking enough of the anesthetic essential to the cocktail of lethal drugs administered during executions, several US states are being forced to postpone the procedure until early next year.
At the heart of the drug supply problem is Hospira, the only pharmaceutical company that produces the anesthetic sodium thiopental.
“We are working to get it back on the market and we anticipate we will by 2011,” a Hospira spokesman said.
The US Food and Drug Administration does not approve the drug’s use in lethal injections and Hospira does not sell it for that purpose, though prison officials make significant use of sodium thiopental in executions.
“This is an anesthetic agent that is used by hospital and it is not indicated for capital punishment,” the spokesman added. “We do not make it for that, we don’t support its use in that procedure.”
He said that Hospira does not disclose sales of the drug because it is not a big seller for the company.
Death row inmates are injected intravenously with three drugs once strapped in the death chamber: First they are put to sleep with sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide then paralyzes their muscles and stops their breathing and finally, potassium chloride stops their heart.
Two states — Ohio in the Midwest and Washington in the Northwest — have opted to carry out executions by injecting only sodium thiopental, but at very high and deadly doses.
The supply dry-up nationwide has prompted Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to announce he would only sign one of the three execution orders pending on his desk.
“The Kentucky Department of Corrections has a sufficient amount of sodium thiopental for one execution and that amount expires on Oct. 1, 2010,” he added in a statement.
Gregory Wilson, who has been on death row for 22 years, will thus be executed on Sept. 16 with the state’s last dose of the drug. However, his fellow inmates Ralph Baze and Robert Foley, who like Wilson have also exhausted all their appeals, will be granted an additional, if somewhat accidental, reprieve.
In Oklahoma, authorities only have enough sodium thiopental for one execution although two are scheduled — for Oct. 14 and Oct. 15.
Three years after a deadly virus struck India’s endangered Asiatic lions in their last remaining natural habitat, conservationists are hunting for new homes to help booming prides roam free. The majestic big cats, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, were once found widely across southwest Asia. Hunting and human encroachment saw the population plunge to just 20 by 1913, and the lions are now found only in a wildlife sanctuary in India’s western Gujarat State. Following years of concerted government efforts, the lion population in Gir National Park has swelled to nearly 700, according
A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece — a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life. Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, said that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as
‘GRAVE CONCERN’: A critic of the government died immediately following his complaints of torture at the hands of security forces, a human rights group said Students on Friday clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, as anger mounted at the death of a writer and government critic in a high-security jail. At least 18 police and an unknown number of protesters were injured in the clashes, authorities and witnesses said, amid international demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed. An Agence France-Presse correspondent witnessed police using batons and firing tear gas at students who staged a torchlight march calling for “justice” near the University of Dhaka. At least six students who allegedly attacked security forces with torches were detained, police said. More protests were planned
DMZ SWIM: Over more than three hours, South Korean surveillance cameras caught him eight times and audible alarms sounded twice, but border guards did not notice A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world’s most fortified borders and was only caught after apparently falling asleep, a Seoul official said. South Korean forces did not spot the man’s audacious exploit, despite his appearance several times on surveillance cameras after he landed and triggered alarms, drawing heavy criticism from media and opposition lawmakers. Even after his presence was noticed, the man — who used diving gear to make his way by sea around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula — was not caught for another