“As the injection began, Blankenship jerked his head toward his left arm and began rapidly blinking. He then lurched toward his right arm, lunging twice with his mouth wide open as if he were gasping for air. A minute later, he pushed his head forward while mouthing inaudible words. His eyes never closed.
The movements stopped within three minutes, and he was declared dead 12 minutes later.”
Thus went the June 2011 execution of Roy Willard Blankenship. His execution was the first in Georgia to use Pentobarbital, a drug never before tested in executions yet already used in several, after Britain and Italy banned exports of the usual sodium thiopenthal. Though the company that it’s produced for is Danish, they say they can’t do the same, for the drug is also produced in America.
Human rights organizations affirm that there’s a chance that the procedure with the new ingredient may cause excruciating, lingering pain. It has been admitted that Pentobarbital is not a painkiller, yet it is being used as the only anesthetic in the usual three-ingredient lethal cocktail, followed by an agent for paralysis and finally the toxic agent to cause cardiac arrest. But, notably in Ohio, it already has killed alone.
Pentobarbital is an experimental barbiturate commonly used for treatment of epilepsy and seizures, as a sedative, or for putting animals to sleep. It’s already been either considered or adopted for use in capital punishment within various states, and is only one ingredient of often three in a lethal cocktail. The brand name it sells under is Nembutal, from the structural formula of the sodium salt—Na (sodium) + ethyl + methyl + butyl + al(a common suffix for barbiturates).
Lethal injection was considered as a more “humane” method of execution against previous methods. This did not completely rule out the prior methods, although taking over most of the countries’ death penalty protocols. It has not however proven to be as painless as it had claimed to be back when it was suggested in 1888, with some botched executions to have taken over 20 minutes for the condemned to die after the drug(s) were administered, and some resulting in chemical burns.
“I don’t know how you could cast more doubt on the use of a drug than when you have the condemnation of it by its own maker,” says Deborah Denno, an expert on the death penalty. Lundbeck has already expressed it’s adamant opposition to its usage in death row publicly; but with everyone against it, nothing, not even the pharmaceutical firm itself, has stopped US prisons from using this drug to torture and kill its’ inmates.