COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is set to become the first state to execute condemned inmates solely with a 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 will use a single, powerful dose of pentobarbital, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Tuesday.
The drug also is used to induce surgical comas and is chemically similar to the drug used to euthanize pets. It replaces the anesthetic sodium thiopental, which was already scarce when its only U.S. manufacturer stopped its production last week.
Oklahoma switched to pentobarbital last year as part of a three-drug combination and has used it in three executions.
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.
Pentobarbital is used by veterinarians as well as for human surgeries, but vets use a concentrated version for euthanasia, said Rich Bednarski, an Ohio State University veterinary professor.
Ohio is buying its supply from a manufacturer that only produces the drug for use in hospitals, said Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesman Carlo LoParo.