Virginia is adding a drug used in a controversial Ohio execution to its roster of chemicals for lethal injections over the objections of the drug's manufacturer.
The state Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it would have the sedative midazolam available as an alternate drug for lethal injections. Midazolam was one of two drugs used in the January execution of Ohio convict Dennis McGuire, who was put to death for the rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman in 1994.
Like many U.S. states, Virginia has been forced to find new drugs to use on condemned prisoners after European-based manufacturers banned American prisons from using their drugs in capital punishment. McGuire's lawyers argued that the drug would bring on an agonizing, suffocating death, and witnesses said the condemned convict appeared to be gasping for air for more than 10 minutes after receiving his injection.
The Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Hospira, which manufactures midazolam, says it opposes the use of its products in lethal injections and no longer sells it to prison hospitals.
"However, due to the complex supply chain and the gray market in the United States, despite our efforts, Hospira cannot guarantee that a U.S. prison could not secure restricted products through other channels not under Hospira's control," the company says in a statement on its website.
According to the website for the Death Penalty Information Center, Virginia uses a three-drug protocol, which involves drugs that have different effects on the body.