Drug Shortage Leaves States Scrambling, Delays Executions

A shortage of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic used during lethal injections, has caused states across the country to postpone executions until they are able to acquire more of the drug. The drug’s sole U.S. manufacturer, Hospira Inc., has publicly stated that the drug may be ready in January, but has been making similiar claims since June. While the company maintains the shortage is due to a lack of raw materials, some speculate that Hospira’s opposition to the drug’s lethal use may be a factor in the shortage. The shortage has led states such as Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California to halt executions until either more of the drug is produced or another method is approved. With four executions scheduled in the next five months, Tennessee has only enough sodium thiopental for the upcoming November execution of Stephen West. The Tennessee Department of Corrections has not released a statement about how it will respond to the shortage, but has said the state expects to carry out all executions as scheduled.

In a story reported by the Associated Press, Tennessee Senator Jim Tracy brought to light a group often lost in this discussion, members of victim’s families. Senator Tracy is quoted as saying,”Many of these cases, the victims have waited for 20 years, some of them longer than that. If we’re out of that drug, we need to have an alternative.”  Senatory Tracy is absolutely correct, we do need an alternative. These families deserve better than having to wait 20 years for an execution, only to find out days before that the state is unable to go through with it. While Sentor Tracy may have been referring to an alternative method of execution, I believe we must adopt an alternative to exectution. Thankfully, such an alternative already exists. In sentencing capital offenders to life without the possiblity of parole, families, rather than being emotionally jerked around by the state, would be able to move on to the extremely difficult task of trying to heal.

For more information on the drug shortage and how other states are reacting click here.

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