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An inevitable step

It was bound to happen – two states in the US, Nebraska and Nevada, are looking to use the synthetic opioid fentanyl (pictured) for its executions of prisoners on death row. As various states have started to run out of the drugs they have usually used for lethal injection executions, they’re scouting round for alternatives.

Mississippi legalised nitrogen gas earlier this year, as a back-up – it’s not been used as yet. Other states have passed laws allowing the return of the electric chair or the use of a firing squad.

Fentanyl has many advantages. It’s 100 times more powerful than morphine. It’s easily obtainable – fentanyl is in widespread use to treat severe pain in terminal cancer patients; and it’s proved to be highly effective at bringing about swift death. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, drug overdoses caused more than 60,000 deaths in the US in 2016, partially due to a 500% increase in deaths from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.

Picture source: Ben Mills