Propofol, used up to 50 million times a year in US surgical procedures, has never been used in an execution. If the execution had gone ahead, US hospitals could have lost access to the drug because 90% of the US supply is made and exported by a German company subject to European Union (EU) regulations that restrict the export of medicines and devices that could be used for capital punishment or torture.
This is not the first time that the EU’s anti-death-penalty stance has affected the US supply of anaesthetics. Since 2011, a popular sedative called sodium thiopental has been unavailable in the United States.
“The European Union is serious,” says David Lubarsky, head of the anaesthesiology department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. “They’ve already shown that with thiopental. If we go down this road with propofol, a lot of good people who need anaesthesia are going to be harmed.”