"The sole American manufacturer of an anesthetic widely used in lethal injections said Friday that it would no longer produce the drug, a move likely to delay more executions and force states to adopt new drug combinations."
"States Face Shortage of Key Lethal Injection Drug"
There's something ironic about the lengths to which the authorities go to conduct "humane" executions. As this article reports, corrections departments in several states face the prospect of running out of sodium thiopental, a component of the three-drug "cocktail" usually administered to end the lives of condemned inmates. The only American company that produces the drug, Hospira, Inc., had planned to produce the drug at an Italian factory; Italian authorities, though, won't allow the company to export the drug if it is to be used for lethal injections. Similar export problems have arisen with other European governments, which are generally opposed to capital punishment.
Whatever your feelings about the death penalty, don't you find something absurd in this conundrum? Heightening the absurdity is the fact that sodium thiopental is the pain-killing component of the lethal injection: After the thiopental, the next two drugs administered are a muscle relaxant and a drug to stop the heart. In other words, states may stop carrying out executions because, without sodium thiopental, the prisoner--presumably, a base and depraved example of humanity--might feel excessive pain before dying.
If the point of the death penalty is punishment--or, indeed, deterrence--then what's the problem if the convicted killer feels pain before dying? If, on the other hand, inflicting a potentially painful death is incompatible with societal values, then isn't any form of judicial execution unacceptable? Honestly, we wonder if, even with sodium thiopental, the execution is truly "painless." How do we know?
We cannot help but think that the surest way to carry out a "painless" execution would be to fire a bullet point blank into the condemned's brain. Of course, the visuals of that would be all wrong. The authorities need to maintain the illusion that what they are doing somehow makes them better than the people they condemn. They aren't.