Texas, the state which tops the charts for the number of inmates they have executed the death penalty on, is suffering a shortage of the sedative it has used "for nearly three decades." One might hope this would mean an end to the death penalty, but that is not the case. Instead, the state is changing to a different drug, officials said Wednesday.
Ever since Texas switched from the electric chair to death by lethal injection, they have used a drug called sodium thiopental. Several states have been searching to find a substitute due to a shortage of sodium thiopental. Texas's supply will expire at the end of March. According to the Houston Chronicle, an execution is set for early April.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said they plan to substitute pentobarbital, a surgical sedative that is commonly used to euthanize animals. The pentobarbital would be combined with two other drugs - pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Recently Oklahoma has used this combination of drugs for its executions.
The next execution in the state of Texas is scheduled to be performed on Cleve Foster on April 5th. Rather than delay his execution, Texas decided to switch to this other drug - a decision which has been met with criticism by Foser's attorney, Maurie Levin.
"Prison officials are not medical professionals," Levin said in a statement. "They cannot be trusted to change a medical procedure in the dark of night without public scrutiny, especially when there is such a minimal track record on the use of pentobarbital in lethal injections."
Foster, 47, is being executed for the abduction, rape and murder of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal, 28.
Though Foster said he has "put this in God's hands a long time ago," he also said he "didn't appreciate being 'a guinea pig' as he told The Associated Press from death row Wednesday."
One could argue that Nyanuer "Mary" Paul did not appreciate being murdered.
According to agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons, Rick Thaler, director of the agency's institutional division, authorized the switch.
"It's in the state statute that changes in chemical and dosages may be made at the discretion of the institutional division director," she said. "We were looking for a drug with similar properties to sodium thiopental and this drug has been used in the Oklahoma execution process so there is a precedent for its use in executions."
According to the Hoston Chronicle, "Lyons said Texas prison officials had conferred with the state attorney general's office, attorneys for the prison agency and reviewed testimony offered in Oklahoma when that state's use of pentobarbital was before the federal courts."
It does appear that Texas was rather quick to find a substitute--any substitute--so they could continue executing people by lethal injection.
One might suggest that perhaps a shortage of the drug is God's way of trying to put an end to this form of capital punishment.