Arizona Executions Halted As Lethal Injection Drug Supply Runs Out

Lethal drug shortages have caused executions in the state of Arizona to come to a screeching halt. The state of Arizona informed the federal court on Friday that executions in the state were halted because the drug supply had run dry, reported The Atlantic.

The Arizona Department of Corrections amended their execution protocols prior to everything being halted to omit using midazolam, but the state lacks either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital which are used as alternatives to the medication omitted. The state of Arizona had no choice but for executions to be halted, as the drugs are necessary to render the inmate unconscious during the lethal injection process.

The lack of drugs, and inability to obtain more of them, has made the state of Arizona incapable of carrying out any executions at this time. Furthermore, the state’s supply of midazolam, which could be used as an alternative, is going to expire before the lawsuit of five death-row inmates in the state have challenging the state’s ability to use the drug on them completes. Even if the drug is deemed as an acceptable sedative for the procedure, it will expire before the state gets the chance to use it.

With the inability to use midazolam before it expires, the lack of alternative sedatives, and no clear solution for obtaining more, the state had no choice but for executions to be halted until the unforeseeable future.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, whether or not the state of Arizona can come up with a solution to the halted executions by finding a pharmaceutical substitute is just a small portion of a bigger problem. The situation with the halted executions in Arizona is very similar to a debate stretching across the United States after so much weight has been placed on the ethics of the death penalty. In fact, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens predicted something similar to this would happen after the ruling of a lethal injection case in Kentucky in 2008.

Nearly a decade after this original concern of whether or not the death penalty by lethal injection was ethical, pharmaceutical companies and federal prohibitions are making it difficult for states such as Arizona to get the drugs they need to perform lethal injections. By not getting the drugs, executions being halted is the only alternative the states have. In just the last 5 years, the makers of 13 different drugs have stopped states from using them in executions. This has resulted in 20 of the 31 states that impose the death penalty to being blocked from getting the drugs they need to continue to do so.

The Pew Research Center reports the public opinion of death penalties and lethal injections has shifted. In 2016, 56 percent of Americans favored the death penalty. This is compared to 20 years ago when 78 percent of Americans favored it.

The problems the state of Arizona has with lethal injections started when the execution of Joseph Woods was botched back in July of 2014. Witnesses of this Arizona execution claim Woods gasped in obvious agony for nearly two hours before he died.

Midazolam was one of the drugs Arizona used to execute Woods. This is the same drug that was used during the botched execution of Clayton Lockett just two months earlier in Oklahoma.

The death penalty is becoming an increasingly unusual practice in the United States, even though 31 states permit it by law. Only nine of the 31 states have carried out an execution since 2014. Missouri and Texas accommodate for the bulk of the executions carried out.

What is going to happen to death-row inmates while Arizona executions are halted? Will an alternative method for executing inmates have to be initiated again? Or, will the death penalty be thrown out as an option for punishment?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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