Pfizer Inc. – the pharmaceutical giant – has taken a bold stance against the use of its drugs for executions, one that will please many progressive opponents of the death penalty.
The drug company announced the following policy: If a government agency wants Pfizer to supply it with drugs of kinds sometimes used in (or considered for use in) lethal injections, it will have to certify that it is buying the drugs for medical, not punitive, use, and that it won’t resell them. Pfizer also said it will “act upon findings that reveal noncompliance.”
Thus, in practical terms, the policy will function as a ban on the use of Pfizer drugs in executions. . . [Full Text]
We risk botched executions so long as they are conducted in a scientific vacuum and medical professionals operate devoid of any moral compass
I peered through the small window of an otherwise solid steel door of the isolation wing of the prison, and saw a small man on his knees in front of his steel framed bed. He had committed many murders and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Perhaps he was praying. Perhaps he was looking for a pencil. But that’s when it struck me: There might be a punishment worse than execution.
Other than a maximum of one hour per day when he could be escorted to a recreational cage outdoors, he would spend the next 10, 20, perhaps 30 years of his life in this very room – eight feet by 10 feet. He would have little contact with other human beings aside from officers and medical professionals. Forging a new friendship or hugging a loved one, if possible at all, would be rare, supervised and not likely spontaneous. His life would be restricted to the same 80 square feet – forever. . . [Full Text]
N Engl J Med 371;2 nejm.org july 10, 2014
Nadia N. Sawicki, J.D., M.Bioethics
If capital punishment is constitutional, as it has long been held to be, then it “necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out.”1 So the Supreme Court concluded in Baze v. Rees, a 2008 challenge to Kentucky’s lethal-injection protocol, in which the Court held that the means used by Kentucky did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Lethal injection procedures have changed significantly since 2008, and that fact coupled with Oklahoma’s recent botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, the latest in a long series of gruesome and error- ridden executions, has raised questions about whether current methods would pass constitutional muster if reviewed by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, they probably would.
This likelihood may surprise members of the medical and scientific communities who oppose involvement by their professions in implementing the death penalty. Lethal injection, the primary execution method used in all death-penalty states, was adopted precisely because its sanitized, quasi-clinical procedures were intended to ensure humane deaths consistent with the Eighth Amendment. But experiences like Clayton Lockett’s, which result from prisons’ experimentation with untested drugs and reliance on personnel with unverifiable expertise, demonstrate the dearth of safeguards for ensuring that this goal is actually achieved. Some drug companies now refuse to distribute drugs used for executions, pharmacies are reluctant to participate unless their identities are shielded, and organized medicine has taken a stand against physicians’ involvement in capital punishment. Nevertheless, states have demonstrated their willingness to continue with lethal injections, and most federal courts have allowed executions to proceed in the face of constitutional challenges. The time is therefore ripe for the medical and scientific communities to consider, once again, their role in this process. [Full Text]
New York Post
Days after the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, a bipartisan committee studying the death penalty has recommended a new one-drug lethal injection method to kill quickly and “minimize the risk of pain or suffering.”
The committee, formed by the Constitution Project long before the Lockett execution, urged states to administer an overdose of one anesthetic or barbiturate to cause death – the same method used in doctor-assisted suicides. (To read the report, click here.)
This method would replace a three-drug lethal injection protocol currently used by most states that employ the death penalty. . . [Full text]
Cuando la conciencia molesta a la ley
A finales de 2010, en la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (PACE) se presentó un informe de su Comisión de Asuntos Sociales, Salud y Familia en el que expresaba su profunda preocupación por el problema de la “objeción de conciencia no regulada” en Europa. El Comité propuso que los Estados adoptaran “una regulación integral y clara” para hacer frente a este problema. . .[aceprensa]
In late 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was presented with a report from its Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee expressing deep concern about the problem of “unregulated conscientious objection” in Europe. The Committee proposed to solve this problem by having states adopt “comprehensive and clear regulations” to address it.
The Council ultimately adopted a resolution that almost completely contradicted the premises of the report, but in 2011 the theme was resurrected by Dr. Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist. Dr. Cannold warned that, “[a]t best, unregulated conscientious objection is an accident waiting to happen,” and, at worst, “a sword wielded by the pious against the vulnerable with catastrophic results.” It was, she wrote, “a pressing problem from which we can no longer, in good conscience, look away.” . . .[Full text]
The Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath has been prepared by Reprieve, an organization in the United Kingdom that works to ensure fair judicial processes around the world. The group places special emphasis on cases involving capital punishment. The oath includes the following statement:
“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”
Some of the issues associated with the campaign it are relevant to freedom of conscience for health care workers, especially pharmacists. They include the problem of complicity, degrees of participation and the apparent appeal to a de facto corporate conscience.