Author Topic: US considers using gas for executions following lethal drug shortage  (Read 1671 times)

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Offline mayya

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US considers using gas for executions following lethal drug shortage

By Stephanie Boltje
Posted 9 Apr 2015, 10:44am

Faced with a shortage of lethal injection drugs, US authorities are looking into alternative execution methods, including the use of nitrogen gas.

Despite nitrogen making up 80 per cent of Earth's atmosphere, when oxygen is removed nitrogen is deadly. Inhaling it would cause the inmate to black out and then die.
The state of Oklahoma has just passed a bill in its lower house, 85-10 votes, to allow the use of gas in executions.

"Execution via nitrogen hypoxia is practical, efficient and humane," said Oklahoma state Republican Mike Christian, who put the legislation forward.

"Besides the humane nature of this option, an added benefit is we will not see supply issues like we do with our current lethal injection setup," Mr Christian said.

"There is no way for death penalty opponents to restrict its supply."

Capital punishment around the world

While the number of executions worldwide is decreasing, some countries are continuing to execute hundreds of prisoners every year.

The shortage has been exacerbated by a European Union ban on the export of drugs for use in executions.

The US Federal District Court also found the food and drug authority improperly approved foreign sodium thiopental, used in the three-drug lethal injection method.
At least five states had to turn over or had their stock confiscated, causing a scramble for a replacement.

"Execution states have been unable to carry out their quota of death penalty executions because drugs are simply unavailable," said Fordham University Law School professor, Deborah Denno.
"They [states] didn't have the chemicals and the Italian distributor refused to sell their drugs to the United States," Ms Denno said.

Tennessee has approved the use of the electric chair and Utah has reinstated the firing squad, if lethal injection drugs are not available.

In 2014 the number of executions in the US decreased by four, down to 35.
Drug makers take a stand against capital punishment

Last month US drug manufacturer Akorn joined other pharmaceuticals to take a stand against capital punishment.

The company now prevents prison orders for hydromorphone hydrochloride and midazolam injections.

The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacies and American Pharmacists Association have also discouraged their members from assisting in the manufacture or distribution of the drugs.

The lethal drug shortage hit headlines last year after a series of botched executions.
An investigation into the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett is underway after he was seen writhing in pain after an IV was administered incorrectly.

The execution had to be stopped after his vein ruptured, and he died later from a heart attack.
In two other states, one man took two hours to die, and another almost 30 minutes.
"It's definitely the case that the drug shortage has had some effect on these botched executions," Ms Denno said.

Compounding pharmacies, which mostly mix together personalised drugs for individuals, are now making drugs for lethal injection.

Of the 32 states that have the death penalty, only seven US states executed prisoners in 2014, down from nine the previous year, according to Amnesty International.