Virginia Using New Drug for Lethal Injections

By Tim Persinko
|  Monday, May 9, 2011  |  Updated 3:46 PM EDT
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Virginia Using New Drug for Lethal Injections

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Due to a shortage of a key ingredient in the cocktail used for lethal injections, the state of Virginia has OK'd the use of a different drug for death penalties.

The Virginia Department of Corrections announced on Monday that they have added pentobarbital to the list of drugs used in executions.  Pentobarbital is widely used to euthanize dogs, cats, and other animals, according to the Food and Drug Administration.  The drug has already been used for death penalty executions in other states.

Virginia, like many other states, had used the drug sodium thiopental as part of a 3-drug mixture used for capital punishment executions.  However, the entire country has faced a shortage of thiopental after the sole U.S. supplier announced a stop to production in January.

Recently, the state of Tennessee ran afoul of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency when it lent Alabama a small amount of sodium thiopental, so that the state could continue executing convicts.  Defense lawyers there argued that new sodium thiopental has been imported by unsanctioned suppliers, and should not be used by the states.  Federal agents seized the thiopental there and in some other states as part of the investigation.

With the switch to pentobarbital, Virginia will avoid conflicts with the DEA.  After Texas, the Commonwealth operates the second-busiest death chamber in the country.
 

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