Propofol Slated for Missouri Executions: Same Drug Killed Michael Jackson

The drug that killed Michael Jackson will now be used in Missouri executions, officials have said. Many are wondering whether the drug will be safe to use on prisoners, as it has not been tested for the use of execution.

The Missouri Department of Corrections announced that it would be changing the way it carries out "lethal injection" sentences, going from the traditional three-drug system to a single dose of propofol. It would be the first state to make the change, which has caused much anxiety, as it has not been tested for that specific use.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), propofol "is an intravenous sedative-hypnotic agent for use in the induction and maintenance of anesthesia or sedation." The drug usually takes affect within 40 seconds of being injected.

Part of the reason that Missouri is making the change stems from the fact that the makers of one of the key drugs, sodium thiopental, has stopped making it. In an effort to replace the drug, states have begun using pentobarbital. Now, though, the makers of pentobarbital are threatening to stop selling the drug to states that intend to use it for executions.

The official reason given for the change to Propofol is the "unavailability of sodium thiopental. Working with expert guidance, we are confident that this new one-drug protocol will be effective and appropriate," said DOC spokesman Chris Cline.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center has cautioned that the drug may not be ready for use in executions.

"Any drug used for a new purpose on human subjects should certainly be tested very, very carefully. I can only imagine the things that might go wrong," he told CBS News.

Propofol became a widely recognized name after Michael Jackson died of an overdose last year. Controversy ensued after it was revealed that his doctor was treating him for insomnia and anxiety using the drug, which is intended to be used as an anesthetic for surgery.

It is unknown when Missouri's new policy will take effect, which leaves plenty of time open for those against the death penalty to protest or appeal the use. It also leaves time available for the drug to be further studied.