US phar­ma­cist group says no to pro­vid­ing drugs for ex­e­cu­tions


A lead­ing as­so­ci­a­tion for U.S. phar­ma­cists on Mon­day adopted a pol­icy that dis­cour­ages its mem­bers from pro­vid­ing drugs for use in lethal in­jec­tions — a move that could make car­ry­ing out ex­e­cu­tions even harder for death penalty states.

The dec­la­ra­tion ap­proved by Amer­i­can Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion del­e­gates at a meet­ing in San Diego says the prac­tice of pro­vid­ing lethal­in­jec­tion drugs is con­trary to the role of phar­ma­cists as health care providers.

The as­so­ci­a­tion lacks legal author­ity to bar its mem­bers from sell­ing ex­e­cu­tion drugs, but its poli­cies set phar­ma­cists’ eth­i­cal stan­dards.

Phar­ma­cists now join doc­tors and anes­the­si­ol­o­gists in hav­ing na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions with ethics codes that re­strict cre­den­tialed mem­bers from par­tic­i­pat­ing in ex­e­cu­tions.

“Now there is una­nim­ity among all health pro­fes­sions in the United States who rep­re­sent any­body who might be asked to be in­volved in this process,” said as­so­ci­a­tion mem­ber Bill Fas­sett, who voted in fa­vor of the pol­icy.

The Amer­i­can Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion has more than 62,000 mem­bers.

Com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies, which make drugs specif­i­cally for in­di­vid­ual clients, only re­cently be­came in­volved in the ex­e­cu­tion-drug busi­ness.

Pri­son de­part­ments have turned to made-to-or­der ex­e­cu­tion drugs from com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies be­cause phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers started to refuse to sell the drugs used for decades in lethal in­jec­tions af­ter com­ing un­der pres­sure from death penalty op­po­nents.

But now the com­pounded ver­sion is also be­com­ing dif­fi­cult to come by, with most phar­ma­cists re­luc­tant to ex­pose them­selves to pos­si­ble ha­rass­ment by death-penalty op­po­nents.

Texas’ pri­son agency scram­bled this month to find a sup­plier to re­plen­ish its in­ven­tory be­fore get­ting drugs from a com­pound­ing phar­macy it won’t iden­tify.

Texas Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice spokesman Ja­son Clark said Mon­day that he had no com­ment when told about the rul­ing.

Af­ter a trou­bling use of a twodrug method last year, Ohio said it will use com­pounded ver­sions of ei­ther pen­to­bar­bi­tal or sodium thiopen­tal in the fu­ture, though it doesn’t have sup­plies of ei­ther and hasn’t said how it will ob­tain them. All ex­e­cu­tions sched­uled this year were pushed to 2016 to give the state more time to find the drugs.

Oth­ers states are turn­ing to al­ter­na­tive meth­ods.

Ten­nessee has ap­proved the use of the elec­tric chair if lethal-in­jec­tion drugs aren’t avail­able, while Utah has re­in­stated the fir­ing squad as a backup method if it can’t ob­tain the drugs. Ok­la­homa is con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion that would make it the first state to al­low the use of ni­tro­gen gas as a po­ten­tial ex­e­cu­tion method.

Fas­sett, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of phar­macy law and ethics at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­sity, said the united front by health pro­fes­sion­als might force peo­ple to fi­nally face the death penalty’s harsh re­al­i­ties.

Lethal in­jec­tions have cre­ated a ster­ile set­ting for ex­e­cu­tions, he said.

“It’s like we’re not re­ally ex­e­cut­ing. We’re sort of like tak­ing Spot to the vet. We’re just putting him to sleep, and that’s not true,” he said.

Taren Stine­brick­ner-Kauff­man, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of, an in­ter­na­tional cor­po­rate watch­dog or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been cam­paign­ing for such a pol­icy, said the Amer­i­can Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion’s stance does not end lethal in­jec­tion as a form of ex­e­cu­tion, “though that may well be the out­come.”

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