By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City, Mo. Oct 11 Missouri on Friday
abandoned plans to become the first U.S. state to use the
anesthetic propofol in an execution after it drew strong
opposition, especially in Europe, where 90 percent of the drug
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a longtime death penalty
supporter, announced that propofol would not be used in an
execution scheduled for later this month, and directed state
officials to find another lethal drug for future use.
The action was a dramatic example of how opponents of
capital punishment in Europe and the United States have exerted
pressure on major pharmaceutical companies to cut off supplies
of drugs for executions, forcing states to scramble for
Propofol is widely used as an anesthetic in hospitals and
its potential use in executions prompted the European Union to
threaten to halt exports to the United States. The 28-member
European Union has outlawed the death penalty.
On Thursday, German manufacturer Fresenius Kabi
confirmed that it took the extraordinary step of suspending
shipments of propofol to a U.S. distributor this year after 20
vials were mistakenly sent to Missouri for use in executions.
A leading death penalty expert, Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington,
D.C., said he had never before heard of a drug firm suspending
shipments to a distributor over their possible use in U.S.
Nixon's announcement on Friday came just two days after the
state said it would return the propofol to the distributor. The
drug was to be used in the Oct. 23 execution of convicted
murderer Allen Nicklasson.
"In light of the issues that have been raised surrounding
the use of propofol in executions, I have directed the
Department of Corrections that the execution of Allen
Nicklasson, as set for October 23, will not proceed," Nixon said
in a statement.
The German drugmaker praised Missouri's reversal.
"This is a decision that will be welcomed by the medical
community and patients nationwide who were deeply concerned
about the potential of a drug shortage," Fresenius Kabi USA
Chief Executive John Ducker said in a statement.
The company said it has agreements with 14 U.S. distributors
that the drug will not be sent to jails and prisons.
It was not clear what drug Missouri would use for future
executions. Many states are using the barbiturate pentobarbital,
but it also has been hard to buy for executions.