The electric chair sees renewed life in Tennessee, after Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law Thursday a bill that would allow the use of the once-forsaken device, but only after lethal injection has been thoroughly ruled out due to unavailable drugs.

Execution has bubbled up in recent months due to several cases involving botched injections that appeared to cause more pain than what is constitutionally allowed. Haslam’s approval comes as a European-led boycott of drug sales for executions severely limits prisons’ access to the method, which has garnered notoriety for its recent failure in Oklahoma and medical stir in St. Louis, where a medical condition put the brakes on one man’s execution.

With the bill’s approval, Tennessee becomes the first state to reintroduce the electric chair as a means to execute inmates without giving them a choice in method, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Associated Press. "There are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution," he said. "No other state has gone so far."

On the one hand, the new law marks a step forward in creating a more humane process for execution. Last month, death row inmate Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack after more than a half hour of breathless writhing following the injection of the first of three drugs in the state's new lethal injection cocktail. Authorities later blamed the event on a collapsed vein, not any failure from the drugs themselves.

Other complications resulting from lethal injection have arisen. In January, Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson reported after he was injected: "I feel my whole body burning." And in 2009, Ohio inmate Romell Broom was pricked 18 times with needles before the state abandoned the attempt. Broom remains on death row.

Introducing the electric chair brings a curious piece of irony to the national debate, as a formally brutal device is now being revived on the grounds that the alternative is far more sinister, and not to mention, less effective. A recent Vanderbilt University poll found that 56 percent of registered voters in Tennessee support the electric chair’s use, while 37 percent are against it. The last inmate to request the electric chair was Daryl Holton, a Gulf War veteran who killed his three sons and a stepdaughter, in 1997. He was electrocuted in 2007.

Remaining to be seen is how other states respond to Tennessee’s initiative. In the past, lethal injection was viewed as the more humane alternative to electrocution, as the specially-designed mix of chemicals was believed to offer a more therapeutic release than pumping electricity through a person’s body.

This was the case in 2000, when Florida switched from the chair to lethal injection fearing extreme “technical difficulties” would make the method unconstitutional, on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court, however, has never made a ruling that an execution method is unconstitutional on those grounds, the AP reports. It upheld the firing squad in 1879, the electric chair in 1890, and lethal injection in 2008.