The embrace of an execution method largely shunned over the past two decades comes as the death penalty, while still legal in many states and supported by a large if declining majority of Americans, is becoming increasingly difficult to implement.

Across the country, states are struggling to procure the drugs necessary to perform lethal injections. Manufacturers in Europe have refused to sell drugs for use in capital punishment, as has at least one major U.S. manufacturer. The three-drug cocktail used commonly since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 is now out of reach.

That has left states to experiment with other drugs. Virginia opted for a new three-drug combination; other states have been moving toward using one large dose of a sedative. But the new options are prompting the same protests from manufacturers as the old ones.