News Feature | March 27, 2014

Human Rights Groups Urge Pharmacists To Withhold Compounded Execution Drugs

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Anti-death penalty groups along with some human rights groups have urged the American Pharmacists Association to restrict its members to participate in executions by providing compounded lethal drugs. The petition comes at a time when states are increasingly turning to pharmacists for lethal injection drugs.

Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP are among the groups targeting compounded execution drugs. Such drugs are not federally regulated. These are individually mixed versions of drugs that prison systems have difficulty obtaining due to reticence of numerous drug makers. Several pharmaceutical companies have put their products off limits for execution purposes, which include Lundbeck and Hospira

In its petition to the American Pharmacists Association, the nonprofit group SumOfUs stated, “If the American Pharmacists Association would ban their members from participating in executions, the Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections and help end the use of the death penalty in the US once and for all.”

Death penalty opponents stated that pharmacists who provide compounded execution drugs violate key provisions of the association code of ethics. Though the American Medical Association is not a regulatory board with authority over licensing, it restricts its members from taking action that could cause the death of a condemned prison inmate. However, the American Board of Anesthesiology states that anesthesiologists cannot participate in executions or they will be ineligible for board certification.

“Without medical professionals, it would be impossible for states to produce lethal injection cocktails. Pharmacists, a profession that is meant to help and save people, are participating in these killings for a few extra dollars. Let’s call on pharmacists to ban their profession from participating in capital punishment. Call on pharmacists to take a stand against any involvement in capital punishment,” SumOfUs stated in its petition.

AMA spokeswoman Michelle Spinnler told The Associated Press in an email that the association is unlikely to adopt any statement at the time. The earliest the association delegates would be able to consider any proposal would be next year, she said.