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Shortage of Execution Drug Could Affect Death With Dignity Patients

OPB | May 22, 2014 12:35 p.m. | Updated: May 22, 2014 2:07 p.m.

The chemical formula for pentobarbital, also known by the brand name Nembutal

The chemical formula for pentobarbital, also known by the brand name Nembutal

Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Willamette Week reported this week that a shortage of pentobarbital (also known as Nembutal) could negatively impact patients who wish to use the fast-acting barbituate to end their lives under Oregon and Washington’s Death with Dignity laws. The drug is manufactured in Denmark and in 2011 the European Union decided to ban its export to the U.S. because of its use in lethal injection executions. This ban is what lead to a botched execution in Oklahoma last month.

Compassion and Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee says the shortage is not affecting patients who wish to use the Death with Dignity law because alternatives to pentobarbital, which are more expensive, are easily accessible. She also notes that there are a variety of options for covering the additional cost.

We’ll hear from Coombs Lee and Michael Hayward, the former Compassion and Choices volunteer who originally spoke out about the shortage.

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