A US state’s first-ever lethal injection could be delayed or permanently halted by a German company that said Nebraska may have illegally acquired its drugs. The state plans on using an untested four-drug combination.
German pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi filed a lawsuit to stop the US state of Nebraska from going forward with a planned execution next week.
The suit, filed late on Tuesday evening in the US, states that Nebraska was planning to use two of the German company’s drugs for a lethal injection to kill Carey Dean Moore.
Moore was sentenced to death for murdering two taxi drivers in Omaha in 1979. He is no longer fighting the execution order, but the suit may delay or permanently halt his planned August 14 execution.
Fresenius Kabi claimed that the state may have illegally obtained the drugs, as the company opposes the use of its drugs in executions, and makes distributors who buy its drugs sign an agreement not to sell them to correctional departments.
“While Fresenius Kabi takes no position on capital punishment, Fresenius Kabi opposes the use of its products for this purpose and therefore does not sell certain drugs to correctional facilities,” the company said in the lawsuit.
The German firm also claimed that it could suffer “great reputational injury” if its drugs are used for executions, as capital punishment is viewed negatively in Europe and illegal in the European Union.
Untested drug combination
The midwestern state of Nebraska plans on using an untested four-drug combination for the lethal injection: A sedative called diazepam; a powerful painkiller fentanyl citrate; cisatracurium besylate to induce paralysis and halt breathing; and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Fresenius Kabi alleged that the state’s supply of potassium chloride is stored in 30-milliliter vials and that it is the only company to store the drug in vials that size. The drugmaker also said it may have manufactured the cisatracurium besylate Nebraska plans to use.
Nebraska’s Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that the drugs for the lethal injection “were purchased lawfully” and were in accordance with the state’s “duty” to carry out capital punishment sentences.
The state’s Department of Correctional Services, however, has not said who supplied the drugs. The department’s response has caused some anti-death penalty groups to call foul. State officials have reportedly released such documents in the past without objection.
Nebraska’s first lethal injection
If the execution is allowed to go ahead, it would be Nebraska’s first execution in 21 years as well as the first use of a lethal injection in the state.
The electric chair was used in the state’s last execution in 1997, which the Nebraska Supreme Court later ruled was unconstitutional.
The drugs used for lethal injections have become harder for US correctional facilities to acquire amid opposition to the death penalty. Drug manufacturers, particularly those based in Europe, have also stopped supplying the drugs.