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Europe Bans Export of Death Penalty Drugs

The EU makes a bold move towards the abolition of executions everywhere.

Needle photo by Steven Depolo

Photo by Steven Depolo.

In response to recommendations from a 2010 Amnesty International report, the European Commission has banned the export of drugs used for execution by lethal injection in the United States. “The decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide,” said Catherine Ashton, vice president of the commission, in a press release.

The European Commission added eight barbiturates to its list of goods subject to export control restrictions. Two of these, sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, are used in all the states that perform execution by lethal injection.

The only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, Illinois-based Hospira, ceased production of the drug in January 2012. Hospira was unable to guarantee Italian authorities that the sodium thiopental made at its Italian factory wouldn’t be used in executions.

Death penalty states with a shortage of sodium thiopental and pentobarbital may find a way to continue lethal injections by using other sedatives not on the EC’s list, but the commission is prepared for this.

Next year the EC will consider additions to the drug export bans, according to Ashton.


Jennifer Kaye wrote this article for 9 Strategies to End Corporate Rule, the Spring 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Jennifer is a YES! intern.

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