The method of execution was supposed to be quick, painless and humane. So why is it suddenly so troubling?
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For decades, most states with capital punishment used a standard combination of three drugs in lethal injections: a sedative, often sodium thiopental; pancuronium bromide as a paralytic agent; and potassium chloride to stop the heart. The drugs in the cocktail were easy to come by and effective, allowing for a relatively standard lethal-injection protocol throughout the U.S. These days, the ways states are choosing to kill their most heinous criminals are anything but uniform.
States used to buy lethal-injection drugs from large, multinational pharmaceutical companies. But in 2011, the European Commission tightened controls on the sale of drugs for use in executions elsewhere. As stockpiles dwindled, the upended supply chain has led many states to experiment with new combinations.