The article in the url below reports an important step in the campaign against the death penalty in the U.S.:
"The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Friday that it had imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions."
Pfizer is a late-comer to this debate, joining a long list of companies that have objected to the use of their drugs in executions:
"More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons. Nonetheless, the decision from one of the world's leading pharmaceutical manufacturers is seen as a milestone."
This announcement is important because Pfizer was the last legitimate source for these drugs:
"'With Pfizer's announcement, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose,' said Maya Foa, who tracks drug companies for Reprieve, a London-based human rights advocacy group. 'Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection.'"
Rather than taking these obstacles as an indication of social disapproval, however, those U.S. states still executing their citizens (and the list is growing short) are improvising:
"Some states have used straw buyers or tried to import drugs from abroad that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, only to see them seized by federal agents. Some have covertly bought supplies from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies while others, including Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio, have delayed executions for months or longer because of drug shortages or legal issues tied to injection procedures. A few states have adopted the electric chair, firing squad or gas chamber as an alternative if lethal drugs are not available."
As sources dry up, states have refused to reveal how they obtained the drugs they use. While possibly unconstitutional (in that it makes it impossible for undue suffering to be avoided), the resulting variable quality of drugs has produced alarming results:
"Many states have experimented with new drug combinations, sometimes with disastrous results, such as the prolonged execution of Joseph R. Wood III in Arizona in 2014, using the sedative midazolam. The state's executions are delayed as court challenges continue. Under a new glaring spotlight, deficiencies in execution procedures and medical management have also been exposed. After winning a Supreme Court case last year for the right to execute Richard E. Glossip and others using midazolam, Oklahoma had to impose a stay only hours before Mr. Glossip's scheduled execution in September. Officials discovered they had obtained the wrong drug, and imposed a moratorium as a grand jury conducts an investigation."
Pfizer, for its part, is presenting this decision as a moral stand, even though the company has taken its time getting to this point:
"'Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,' the company said in Friday's statement, and 'strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.' Pfizer said it would restrict the sale to selected wholesalers of seven products that could be used in executions. The distributors must certify that they will not resell the drugs to corrections departments and will be closely monitored."
Pfizer's decision is just the latest in a long line of indicators that the death penalty is becoming increasingly impractical to implement, even while it remains a relatively popular punishment option in the U.S.:
"For a host of legal and political reasons as well as the scarcity of injection drugs, the number of executions has declined, to just 28 in 2015, compared with a recent peak of 98 in 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center."
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Pfizer Blocks the Use of Its Drugs in Executions
By Erik Eckholm
May 13, 2016
The New York Times