No more sodium thiopental from the United Kingdom

Posted by Sheila Michell, Guest Blogger from the UK on December 1st, 2010

As a British citizen I was relieved to read that our government plans to restrict the export of sodium thiopental, the anesthetic drug used in the three-drug lethal injection procedure commonly adopted in the US. Of course, I would have thought this action was a foregone conclusion, taking into account the EU guidelines and our own government's Death Penalty Strategy published in October 2010, which clearly states:

The United Kingdom opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle because we believe it undermines human dignity; there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value; and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.

It was also heartening to read that Archimedes Pharma, the only company manufacturing the drug in this country, welcomed the ruling that a license must be attained by any person or company attempting to export sodium thiopental.

Since the whole of Europe condemns the death penalty in principal, as laid out in EU Regulation 1236/2005, none of the European countries are in a position to ethically allow the exportation of sodium thiopental.

Unfortunately the drug had already been exported from the UK to Arizona, where it was used in the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan. Tennessee has also obtained supplies and apparently California is set to receive a consignment this week, enough to kill 86 inmates which is a horrendous thought. It is not known whether the newly adopted export ban will prevent this delivery.

This story has raised awareness over the issue of the death penalty, and may help the United States to realize that the world "out there" does care, and is prepared to take a stand.

The death penalty is outdated and I believe that individuals are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, not only through the execution process itself, but also as a result of the endless prevarication by the courts. Death row prisoners are given execution dates, taken through the preparatory procedures, only to have the execution delayed and rescheduled over and over again. The wait for death is agonizing.

Surely it is time for each state to consider abolishing the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

Posted in Blog, Lethal Injection


Comments are now closed for this item.

  1. Comment by SamsonA, Dec 8th, 2010 1:07am

    The United States shouldn't be surprised that the U.K. is voicing its “moral opposition to the death penalty” by refusing to foreign trade any more thiopental sodium to Yankee shores, writes the Wall Street Journal. In low doses thiopental is an anesthetic with multiple applications, however at sufficient dosage it is the United States of America execution substance of choice. Per a London court ruling, any supplier of thiopental sodium to the United States of America is now required to get and foreign trade license. If U.K. authorities determine the thiopental is intended for lethal injection use, the medical supplier's foreign trade license will be revoked.

  2. Comment by Deborah Kellogg, Dec 1st, 2010 11:30am

    I was very glad to read this information, but then it came to mind that most Europeans may not be aware that several states in the US have banned the death penalty for years; my own state of Minnesota outlawed the death penalty over 100 years ago on the grounds that it is "cruel & unusual" punishment. Sadly, South Dakota directly to the west of Minnesota still has the death penalty. I wonder how long it will take all of the US to "grow up" enough to realize that this particular form of torture is both ineffective & inhuman.


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