A major shortage of a drug called sodium thiopental is hampering the ability of states to put inmates to death. The first execution in California in four years was postponed this week, and it's likely not to be the last. Though nine states across the nation have 17 lethal injections scheduled between now and the end of January, it is uncertain whether they will be able to perform the executions due to the shortage. State prison systems are scrambling to find supplies of sodium thiopental, but they have competition in their search. Over the last few years, the drug has become popular with hospitals, where it is used as an anesthetic for surgery and to induce medial comas. Hospitals had previously used a drug called propofol, though that too has become scarce. Both drugs' production are slowing because of difficulty finding key ingredients in their formula. So with both hospitals and prisons vying for this drug, what will this mean for both parties ? those attempting to save lives, and those attempting to end them ? and how will it affect their abilities to function? The New York Times' national correspondent Kevin Sack has been following this story and joins us with the latest.

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