The bad thing about capitalism is that it reduces all human desires to the urge to make money. That's also the good thing about capitalism. Right now, states that want to execute people via lethal injection are having a hard time finding the necessary drugs to do so. Because capitalism. From the NYT (1/22/11) :
... Italian authorities said they would not permit export of [sodium thiopental] if it might be used for capital punishment. Hospira said in a statement Friday that its aim was to serve medical customers, but that “we could not prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections” and the company did not want to expose itself to liability in Italy.To understand how this works, you need to know how our government kills people in your name. A recent (2/18/14) article in the Atlantic provides a quick summary:
Before the drug shortage, virtually every lethal-injection protocol used the same three-drug method. A first drug, sodium thiopental, anesthetized the prisoner. Then a second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzed the inmate and halted his or her breathing. Finally, an injection of potassium chloride stopped the heart.One thing corporations care a lot about is losing money -- exposure to a lawsuit in Italy was enough to make the wheels fall off this one.
Many state corrections departments switched to pentobarbital, another powerful sedative, in their three-drug cocktail. But when its manufacturer, the Danish-based Lundbeck, learned that its product was being used in death penalty cases, it refused to sell any more to corrections departments and insisted that its American distributors also refuse to supply the drug.What a quandary. The death states are going to have to go back to the electric chair or the noose I suppose. And all this caused by the same heartless money-grubbing drug manufacturers that were thought to be firmly on the side of exploiting the public.
It turns out there's actually an organization dedicated to furthering executions in this country -- that must be a cheery job! Anyway, this outfit, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, headed up by one Kent Scheidegger, smells a rat, per the NYT (8/18/13) :
It’s an artificially created problem ... There is no difficulty in using a sedative such as pentobarbital. It’s done every day in animal shelters throughout the country. But what we have is a conspiracy to choke off capital punishment by limiting the availability of drugs.My own humble proposal would be that death states could instead of turning over their executions to the management of animal shelters, simply seize the drugs from the distributors using condemnation via imminent domain, the same as for highways, etc. This would of course require a bunch of (mostly ) red states to sue powerful corporations.
The problem with this is that sodium thiopental, one of the key drugs in the traditional "3 drug cocktail" (first devised in 1977), is no longer being made, and it has a shelf life of only about 4 years. Pentobarbital is also becoming more difficult to locate.
The other solution is to turn every execution into an experiment using whatever drugs come to hand. According to an NYT article (link) from 8/18/13:
... a shortage of pancuronium bromide a few years ago led some states to switch to a single-drug method, often simply administering enough sodium thiopental to cause death. The manufacturer of that drug, however, the Illinois-based Hospira, stopped providing it to corrections departments after workers at its Italian plant, and European officials, objected to the use of the drug for execution.So, with sodium thiopental unavailable, time to set up the death laboratory. Missouri is doing that right now, as it struggles to find a way to bump off Michael Taylor. According to the Columbia Tribune (2/19/14), Missouri, having been unable to locate sufficient sodium thiopental, and apparently doubting whether it can assemble enough pentobarbital, has a plan B consisting of some combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. They hope to avoid the problem of taking 15 minutes to suffocate Ohio convict Dennis McGuire on 1/16/14.
And the drug manufacturers for these experiments don't want to be identified. Per the Columbia Tribune (linked above):
Missouri, like many states, is reluctant to divulge much information about where it obtains lethal injection drugs, citing the privacy rights of the supplier.Well, at least there are some privacy rights still left.