Despite a shortage of lethal-injection drugs, two of the nation's most active death penalty states have quietly carried on with executions by turning to pentobarbital, a powerful sedative that generally puts inmates to death swiftly and without complications.
Missouri and Texas have avoided the prolonged executions seen in other states where authorities are struggling to find a reliable chemical combination. The drug's apparent effectiveness raises questions about why it has not been more widely adopted.
Lethal injection is in the spotlight after executions went awry in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, which all use midazolam, more commonly given to help patients relax before surgery. In executions, it is part of a two- or three-drug lethal injection.
Texas and Missouri instead administer a single large dose of pentobarbital.