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BRUSSELS: There's one big reason why the United States has a dearth of execution drugs so acute that some states are considering solutions such as firing squads and gas chambers: Europe's fierce hostility to capital punishment.It changed its execution protocol last week to use Ohio's two-drug combination because it could no longer procure pentobarbital, a powerful sedative.The drug shortage then started biting in 2010 when Hospira Inc., the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, a sedative that is part of the normal three-drug mixture, stopped production.The EU then updated its export regulation in late 2011 to ban the sale of eight drugs – including pentobarbital and sodium thiopental – if the purpose was to use them in lethal injections.An international AP poll in 2007 found that about 70 percent of those surveyed in the U.S. favored the death penalty for people convicted of murder.That is also reflected in drastically lower incarceration rates: Across the EU, about 130 people per 100,000 inhabitants are behind bars compared to 920 in the U.S, according to EU and U.S. Justice Department figures.The number of U.S. executions has declined in recent years – from a peak of 98 in 1999 to 39 last year. Some states have abolished the death penalty, and those that carry on find executions increasingly difficult to conduct because of the drug scarcity and doubts about how well they work.
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