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For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
January 7, 2011 5:52 AM   Subscribe

176 Horn Lane, Acton, London, probably isn't an address you think of when it comes to death sentences in Arizona and California. It is the home of a small driving school. And Dream Pharma, a mom and pop pharmaceutical wholesaler.

It has recently emerged that Dream Pharma exported sold 150 vials of sodium thiopental, 180 vials of potassium chloride, and 450 vials of pancuronium bromide to the Arizona State Prison on September 28th, 2010. The full details of the transaction are outlined by Reprieve, a UK anti death penalty advocacy group.

Shortages in the US of sodium thiopental have led some states, such as Oklahoma and Oregon to use pentobarbital, which is more commonly in the West used to euthanase pets.

Hospira, the sole U.S. maker of the drug, has not produced a fresh supply of thiopental for over a year, forcing some states to import the drug from Europe. Supplies are sufficiently tight that Arizona had to give some of its supplies to California. However, until recently, it has not been 100% clear that importation into the US of sodium thiopental was legal, either from a US or a UK standpoint. The FDA has now said it will permit the importation of the drug.

In the UK meanwhile, the government has first declined to place export controls on sodium thiopental. On the 30th November last year, it effectively banned the export of the drug to the US.
posted by MuffinMan (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe Ilinois has some left over.
posted by Sailormom at 6:01 AM on January 7, 2011


The Colbert Report did an amusing skit on the shortage a few weeks ago.

The choice quote from the whole situation was from the Californian Department of Corrections undersecretary, Scott Kernan who emailed "You guys in AZ are life savers," after AZ gave them enough of the poison to carry out the execution.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:14 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


i'd love to see the Wikileaks cables on that deal.
posted by empath at 6:15 AM on January 7, 2011


It's a really bizarre story. I'm glad though that the British Government has banned the export of this, although I'm sure they've done so because they're worried about the legal ramifications of this rather than anything else.
posted by ob at 6:17 AM on January 7, 2011


That House of Lords transcript is awesome. Why can't everyone talk like this:
I cannot help but ask one question, as a result of my O-level chemistry that I never got. Like the Minister and the Explanatory Memorandum, I always refer to the drug as sodium thiopental, but I notice that the order reverses that and refers to thiopental sodium. From mere curiosity, I am wondering why that is the case. I hope that those behind the Minister who know the answer to everything will tell us why the words have been reversed.
Also, good on the UK for putting an end to this.

However, until recently, it has not been 100% clear that importation into the US of sodium thiopental was legal, either from a US or a UK standpoint. The FDA has now said it will permit the importation of the drug.

While not directly on point, the case of Chaney v. Heckler is of some interest here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:17 AM on January 7, 2011


Scott Kernan who emailed "You guys in AZ are life savers," after AZ gave them enough of the poison to carry out the execution.

Holy shit, he really did.
posted by empath at 6:21 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


How can this be a serious story? The only important thing it shows is that the US death penalty system, with its bizarre concern to make execution more civilised by bureaucratising and medicalising it, is a giant joke.

Response from the Californian Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after receiving a new supply from their Arizona counterparts: "You guys in Arizona are lifesavers. Buy you a beer the next time I get that way."

Priceless.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 6:23 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know Horn Lane very well. My first summer job was there.

I worked shifts in the high street betting shop a little further north, on the left. (If you've never come across one, these places are where people go to place wagers on horse races, watch them, and then after they lose, leave or get kicked out for threatening the staff.) Here it is on Google Maps.

People would quite often come in and try to place bets using forged money. One guy tried to place a £400 bet using £50 notes that weren't even on approximate paper. I was 19, and sent him away as convincingly as I could, but he then came back into the store with real money saying the post office had been happy to switch the cash. We tested the cash, it was fine. I probably think the post office did launder it for him. Oh, and while I think of it, somebody tried a chocolate coin once.

Then there was this young, tall, flushed, dark-haired man who always came in at 3pm sharp—with his seven-year-old son. He would spend until he lost all his money, as his son watched. We couldn't have under-18s in the store, but we couldn't send him outside because he might run into traffic or wander up the road onto the railway tracks or the motorway. The father would always start off by betting round numbers, but I knew when he was about to leave because he would always bet something like £11.68 before swearing at the TV, yanking his son's hand and storming out. Every time. I hope the kid grew up ok.

And there was a man who came in just before closing who had hair like Mick Hucknall and a face like somebody had vomited inside a balloon. He would place 45p and 12p bets on greyhound races using corroded coins he had found with a metal detector. He smelled a bit like ammonia.

I'm certainly not proud of my first job, but it paid well for a 19-year-old good at maths and gave me an education in parts of life that are easy to ignore. North Acton is a strange part of west London. A little pocket of scrubbiness in the middle of affluence. I suspect it's an area full of people who are also not particularly proud of what they do, and try not to think about it.

The point of this post is that I am amused, but not surprised, that Horn Lane is home to a "driving school" supplying death penalty drugs. Arizona, if you have to come to this area of town to get what you need, you should perhaps reconsider your habit.
posted by randomination at 6:50 AM on January 7, 2011 [42 favorites]


Is there any reason they have to use this particular drug? Couldn't they just give you a ludicrous amount of heroin followed with a cyanide chaser?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:19 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because we want to be humane, but we want it to be punishment as well. Can't have that guy going to his death happy and frothing at the mouth in pain too!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:53 AM on January 7, 2011


The reason why it has to be clean, quick and clinical is to give it the sterile and unemotional air of an operation. In effect, this is what some people in society view it as - the removal of a tumor.

The idea of a clean and clinical death makes acceptance of the death penalty easier, at a legal and, more importantly an emotional level.

Where executions go wrong even slightly (compared to various eye watering stories about the electric chair, for example), or even where the accused doesn't passively accept the natural order of justice, it upsets things.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:10 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


even where the accused doesn't passively accept the natural order of justice, it upsets things.

Ironically, while reading the link on Tookie Williams, the last page was interrupted in the middle by sponsored ads....

one for an online school, so you could become a prison guard
another for alcohol prep pads, you know, for like giving injections
posted by timsteil at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2011


I just like saying... HOSPIRA!!
posted by sneebler at 4:38 PM on January 7, 2011


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