Friday, May 2, 2014

My newfound respect for Chemistry teachers

Yes, we are all aware of Walter White.  He made chemistry teachers sexy.  But that was last season.

What really draws my attention to chemistry teachers now is all the focus on botched executions.  Much attention is being paid to all the little details involved in delivering lethal injections to execute a criminal:  what drugs are being used, who is administering them, what procedures are in place, who is overseeing the process, what involvement does the doctor or on-site medical professional have, etc.

I did recall the story about how America was running low on the supply of certain components needed for lethal injection.  Apparently, we were importing sodium thiopental (this is the barbiturate first administered to anesthetize the subject) from a U.S company, Hospira, based in Italy.  As it turns out, Italy is against capital punishment.  The U.S company then ceased production of sodium thiopental out of fear of prosecution from the Italian government.

America was then forced to look for its lethal-injection compounds elsewhere.  Denmark (who is actually pro-capital punishment) also agreed, then later disagreed, to supply the U.S. with sodium thiopental.  The U.K. was considered but supply was questionable.

So, this one question kept arising in my brain:  "Why can't we make our own Sodium Thiopental?"

Clearly, we have the resources -  Hospira clearly has all the technical and legal knowledge to execute whatever protocols are required to manufacture this compound.  They just need the political permission (man, that hurt just typing it). 
From Wikipedia - "Hospira manufactures this product because it improves or saves lives, and the company markets it solely for use as indicated on the product labeling. The drug is not indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support its use in this procedure." - Hospira Spokesperson

I will share this one Forbes article which made my jaw drop.  "[Sodium Thiopental]
is typical of a wide range of advanced products that are no longer made in the United States – products that in the fullness of time the United States will probably lose all ability to make. (Advanced manufacturing knowhow is acquired through years or even decades of learning-by-doing and once lost is difficult or impossible to reacquire.)

HOW IN THE WORLD would we "lose the recipe" to make something?!? THIS is why I am praising Chemistry teachers today. They can look at the structure of a sodium barbiturate and understand
the alkylation of ethylmalonic ester with 2-bromopentane in the presence of sodium ethoxide.[5][6] The product ethyl-(1-methylbutyl)malonic ester undergoes heterocyclization with thiourea, using sodium ethoxide as a base.

..and subsequently make a brazillion dollars.

The fact is, America is not going to stop executing criminals.  Our mindset is not even close to that.  Until capital punishment is abolished, we will continue to have a "Death Row" in our prison system.  That being said, we do have a moral obligation to make the executions as humane as possible.  This requires us having the right resources in place at the right time.  The drug manufacturer stated they had an objection to participating in capital punishment and it is now appearing that the criminals are suffering for it.

Now I have to scrub my browsers because I googled "how to make sodium thiopental".

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