Reuters reports that Texas has illegally obtained experimental new lethal injection drugs “in a desperate attempt to keep the United States’ most active execution chamber operating despite dwindling supplies of the drug traditionally used for lethal injections,” pentobarbital. The Denmark-based company that manufactures the drug for physician-assisted suicides, objects to its use in executions and thus the supply is almost exhausted.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates, “one of whom is scheduled to be executed on October 9,” claims that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice obtained shipments of propofol, midazolam, and hydromorphone by using the address of a hospital “shuttered three decades ago.” The plaintiffs claim that they would not have been able to obtain the drugs if the manufacturers knew who it was ordering them.
The lawsuit also claims that they tried to purchase more pentobarbital from a company in New York using the address of the “Huntsville Unit Hospital,” which closed in 1983. Accompanying the order was “a prescription written in the name of the prison warden.” Apparently, the drug company found out why they wanted it and then canceled the order.
A spokesman from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to comment on the allegations, but did say that they had enough pentobarbital to last them through at least the end of the year. Even though it was known that the shortage was coming, Texas has continued to carry out more executions than any other state since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.
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What is most shocking about this claim, if these allegations are true, is that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would have essentially been conducting ad-hoc experiments in execution, using substances that might cause grave pain to the inmate and are even banned for use in putting down animals.