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State Fights to Use Animal Death Drug on Humans

Because Oklahoma is short on the anesthetic used in lethal injections
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2010 8:38 AM CST
State Fights to Use Animal Death Drug on Humans
The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – Oklahoma is short on the anesthetic it uses to execute prisoners—so it’s asking a court if it can substitute a drug used to euthanize animals. Several states are dealing with a shortage of sodium thiopental, the only anesthetic yet used in lethal injections; its only manufacturer has shut down production until 2011 over ingredient shortages. So if the court approves the new drug, it could become the new standard, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Veterinarians regard the proposed drug, pentobarbital, “as an ideal anesthetic agent for humane euthanasia in animals,” the court filing argues, and it’s “substantially” similar to thiopental. Oklahoma wants the drug approved by Dec. 16, so it can execute John David Duty on schedule. But Duty’s lawyer objects, saying the drug “is untested, potentially dangerous, and could well result in a torturous execution.” Click here for more fallout from the shortage.
(Read more death penalty stories.)

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