USA: ANESTHESIA SHORTAGE MAY DELAY EXECUTIONS
August 28, 2010: A nationwide shortage of several anesthesia drugs has left several states scrambling to find enough doses to carry out lethal injections â potentially delaying executions well into next year.
Kentucky announced three days ago that it would not be able to carry out two executions, despite pending death warrants, because the state has only enough sodium thiopental, also known as Pentothal, to perform a single lethal injection. "We have reached out to some other states, but that has not been fruitful," said J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. "We've had other states call us trying to find it."
Oklahoma has also been forced to delay an execution after a federal judge said a hearing needs to be held before the state could substitute a drug for the state's remaining dose of sodium thiopental. That dose "wasn't at the quality we wanted," said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.
Ohio prison officials have been closely watching the nationwide shortage after they feared they may not be able to carry out a lethal injection last spring because of limited supplies, according to Ohio corrections spokeswoman Julie Walburn. Hospira, based outside Chicago, the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, says manufacturing problems have hindered production of the drug, though spokesman Dan Rosenberg declined to elaborate. "We are working to get it back on the market as soon as possible," Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said Hospira won't have more of the drug available until sometime in the 1st quarter of 2011. The lack of sodium thiopental developed after a more commonly used anesthetic called Propofol grew scarce, said Bona Benjamin with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
The shortages have led to major disruptions for hospitals, doctors and patients, who have postponed some elective surgeries as a result. Benjamin said that with the shortage of Propofol it didn't take long to start seeing shortages in drugs that could be safely substituted. Kentucky has 9.5 grams of sodium thiopental available, according to Department of Corrections documents. Execution requires 3 grams, plus an additional 3 grams for backup injection. Moreover, Kentucky's dose of sodium thiopental expires in October. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signed a warrant this week that sets an execution date of Sept. 16 for Gregory Wilson, who was sentenced in 1988 for the May 1987 murder and rape of Deborah Pooley.
Brown said he recommended scheduling Wilson first because his case is the oldest of the three warrants requested.
Warrants also were requested for Ralph Baze, who was convicted of killing a sheriff and deputy in 1992, and Robert Carl Foley, who was convicted in 1993 and 1994 of killing six people in 2 incidents. Sources: USA Today, 28/08/2010)