The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced Tuesday that it will use pentobarbital, a common anesthetic used by veterinarians to euthanize pets. Oklahoma also adopted the drug last year, conducting three executions since the reformulation. But Oklahoma uses a three-drug cocktail — Ohio will be a trendsetter in making sole use of pentobarbital for execution.
Triple-murderer Frank Spisak will be the last Ohio inmate executed using the old drug, hard-to-find sodium thiopental, on Feb. 17. The March execution of Johnny Baston, convicted for a 1994 Toledo killing, will be the first execution using the new drug.
Sodium thiopental, previously used by both states, has been in increasingly short supply. Hospira Inc., which produced the drug until recently, halted production last week due to increased scrutiny from officials in Italy, where the drug is manufactured. Members of the Italian parliament issued an order in order to ensure that sodium thiopental manufactured in that country was not being used in executions. Hospira then discontinued sale of the drug, since it only has production capability at its facilities in Italy.
Meanwhile, England recently banned the exportation of sodium thiopental for use in execution — and its media seems determined to root out violators. Several states, including California, face impending shortages of their own. As more and more Western countries follow suit, U.S. prison officials must look to manufacturers in India for its execution — or merely continue to put prisoners down like dogs.