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Mo. Execution Halted Over Propofol Concerns

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 14, 2013 8:56 AM

Missouri executions will not be carried out by lethal injections via propofol after all. The state was slated to be the first in the country to use the anesthetic in an execution scheduled for October 23.

But on Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon halted Allen Nicklasson's execution until the state finds a new drug to use in lethal injections.

The decision came after the drug's German manufacturer said using propofol for executions could lead the European Union to ban the export of the drug to the United States.

Lethal Injection Shortage

The drugs used in executions are in a constant state of flux due to a nationwide shortage. In large part, this is because major pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling drugs for executions, reports The Associated Press.

Many states, including Missouri, are trying to import lethal injection drugs, according to CNN.

Unlike other states, Missouri turned to propofol in 2012 as a viable option for administering lethal injections -- much to the dismay of the European Union.

Propofol, which is regularly used in surgical procedures, is mostly manufactured in Europe, where capital punishment is banned. Not surprisingly, the EU's companies and governments have long tried to stop the use of their drugs for executions in the United States and elsewhere.

In light of the EU's export ban threat -- which could lead to an anesthetic shortage in the United States, according to Medical Daily -- Missouri is returning its propofol order to Morris & Dickson LLC, a Louisiana company that supplied the drug.

How the move will impact Missouri is unclear. The state revised its execution protocol in 2012 to include the drug, but has not held an execution since, reports The AP.

Propofol Lawsuit

There are plenty of Americans who aren't too keen on propofol's use in executions either.

A group of death row inmates in Missouri filed lawsuits arguing that the drug -- which was blamed in pop star Michael Jackson's death in 2009 -- causes pain and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, reports The AP.

Gov. Nixon's decision comes on the heels of the Missouri Supreme Court's move to set execution dates for fall for Nicklasson and another inmate, after suspending an earlier decision due to concerns over the state's use of propofol.

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