Ohio Changing Lethal Injection Execution Methods

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is planning to address and restructure its current prisoner execution method, according to a recent court filing. This change will revolve around the type of drug the state uses in lethal injections. Expiring supply lines and diminishing drug sources call for this change.

The manufacturer of pentobarbital, the sedative used in Ohio’s lethal injections, has prohibited the continued supply of the drug. Ohio therefore must look elsewhere for alternate execution methods when its supply of the sedative runs out at the end of September.

This will mark the third significant change the state will have made to the process of lethal injections. The first was in 2009, when the state began using a single dose of sodium thiopental. The second was in 2011 when the state made the switch to pentobarbital. Similar to the current situation, the state’s supply of sodium thiopental was restricted and it was forced to turn elsewhere.

Certain options can be ruled out, however. Ohio illegalized the use of the electric chair 10 years ago, largely due to the potential for emotional stress placed on the executioners.

Ohio does have several options, though, that can supply the state the necessary drugs when its current stock runs out. One option involves relying on compounding pharmacies to continue the supply. Compounding pharmacies are licensed to create and distribute small quantities of certain drugs for specific patients. Another option that has never been used involves injecting two different drugs into the prisoners’ muscles.

Ohio is not the only state affected by the limited supply of pentobarbital. Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas are looking for alternatives as well. Georgia managed to replenish its supply of the drug from a compounding pharmacy after its initial supply was cut off in March.

Missouri is facing setbacks after its request to use propofol was pushed aside.

Arkansas’s governor postponed scheduling additional executions. This will not only avoid a backlog of prisoners on death row, but will also give the state’s Department of Corrections time to write a new lethal injection procedure using different drugs.

As for Ohio, while no details have been released about what this next change will look like, a recent telephone conference between federal Judge Gregory Frost and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction suggested that the new plan would be created by Oct. 4 of this year.