Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

May 7, 2014

House of Burgess: Our (lethal injection) drug problem

Fatal components increasingly scarce

(Continued)

After the slow-motion train wreck of Lockett’s death, Warner’s execution was put on hold while the investigation began. This is not even the first time this year a lethal injection, in which the state refused to say from where exactly it obtained the toxic ingredients, went awry.

“Ohio prison officials said … a review of the controversial January execution of Dennis McGuire has determined that he did not suffer any distress, but they will increase the dosage of the lethal injection next time,” reported Tracy Connor of NBC News April 28. “McGuire … took 25 minutes to die after being injected with an untried cocktail of drugs. He appeared to be gasping for breath at points, witnesses reported at the time.”

Capital punishment has been abolished in 100 countries. Yet, we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of North Korea, China and Iran. Our increasingly out-of-step approval of convict murder is the very reason we’re in this mess.

“Hospira announced today it will exit the sodium thiopental market and no longer attempt to resume production of its product, Pentothal,” stated a Jan. 21, 2011 press release. “Hospira had intended to produce Pentothal at its Italian plant. In the last month, we’ve had ongoing dialogue with the Italian authorities concerning the use of Pentothal in capital punishment procedures in the United States — a use Hospira has never condoned.”

Other civilized countries think of us as an antiquated minority because of our stance; and they won’t be party to it. This shift led to panic in America’s prisons.

“As the sole U.S. supplier of the drug, Hospira left virtually all death rows without a steady supplier of lethal injection agents — a distribution opportunity no other domestic manufacturer was ready (or willing) to seize,” reported Newsweek’s John Ericson April 30. “With drug alternatives and supplier options running out, state-sponsored death has come to rely largely on loopholes and secrecy.”

As a nation addicted to the death penalty, expect more such grisly scenes as our fixes become harder and harder to obtain.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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