Nebraska inmate executed with fentanyl stirs ethics debate

Posted at 4:20 PM, Aug 15, 2018

Nebraska just became the first state to execute an inmate using a powerful opioid called fentanyl. The synthetic painkiller has helped drive the national opioid crisis.

The execution is attracting big attention, because executions across the country have been delayed as drug companies file lawsuits to stop states from using their drugs in executions.

However, Nebraska found a way to get around the issue—by using fentanyl in a mixture.

"Drug companies don't want to be associated with state executions,” explains Adam Graves, a college professor and ethics expert. “They don't want their products to be used for death."

More and more states might start using fentanyl in the deadly cocktail used to put inmates to death. And that means states that have had to put executions on hold, might be able to resume.

So why fentanyl? The drug is easy to get.

"In this particular case, you have to ask yourself by using that, are we not also opening up scars and rubbing salt in the wounds of families who have lost members to the opioid crisis?" says Graves.

Fentanyl is also a major part of the opioid epidemic, and has been linked to 30,000 overdose deaths last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.