Future of lethal injection in doubt as critics, drug makers rebel against it

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Death by legal injection is getting harder for states around the country to carry out due to drug shortages and controversy surrounding the procedure, FOX News reports

At least ten states have faced recent court challenges or inquiries about their lethal injection methods. There are 31 states that have the death penalty. In many cases, some of those states have faced drug shortages since manufacturers are cutting off the supply because they object using it as a death penalty method.

“In every state that’s attempting to carry out executions, prisoners have been challenging the method of execution. And those challenges have either been to the entire state’s protocol where they are attacking the use of particular drugs, or it’s been what’s called an as-applied challenge when people who have particular medical conditions say that the use of any kind of lethal injection is inappropriate for them because of the way they’re likely to respond,” said Robert Dunham, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

The Supreme Court may soon consider a Missouri case involving a death row inmate who suffers from tumors inside his throat that could rupture during the execution process.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University Hospital, said lethal injection is often confused as a medical procedure.

“These are the sorts of medications that doctors use and how these medications are used for the purposes of execution, that’s not really a doctor’s job,” he explained. “That’s the state taking these sorts of medications and repurposing them as poison.”

Drug manufacturers have also been taking a stand, attempting to cut off supplies to states forcing them to come up with alternative methods.

“Now, we’ve got drug companies that say we don’t believe in the death penalty and they can’t be forced to produce drugs that are going to be used in execution,” said Ashleigh Merchant, a criminal defense attorney. “Yes, we want finality in these sentences but is there a way to do that without violating the Eighth Amendment?”

There’s a possibility that some of those court cases the states face could end up at the Supreme Court in the next couple of years.