COLUMBUS — Ohio is set to become the first state to execute condemned inmates with a surgical sedative sometimes used in assisted suicides, a switch made as the shortage of the drug normally used for executions has worsened.
Beginning in March, the state execution team will use a single, powerful dose of pentobarbital, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced Tuesday.
The drug also is used to induce surgical comas and is chemically related to a version of pentobarbital used to euthanize pets. It replaces the anesthetic sodium thiopental, which was already scarce when its only U.S. manufacturer announced last week it would no longer produce it.
Ohio is following the lead of Oklahoma, which switched to pentobarbital last year and has since used it three times. However, Ohio, which used only a single dose of sodium thiopental to execute inmates, would become the first state to use pentobarbital alone, without two additional drugs that paralyze inmates and stop their hearts.
The drug has been used in 200 of the 525 assisted suicides in Oregon since 1998, according to data compiled by the Oregon Public Health Division. It also was prescribed for 5 of 47 assisted-suicide patients in Washington state in 2009, state health statistics show.
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