Drugs, Do No Harm & the Death Penalty

Assorted colorful pills The American Pharmacists Association (APA) is coming under pressure from several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the ACLU and the NAACP, asking the organization to prohibit its members from participating in executions of death penalty inmates by supplying lethal injection drugs. More specifically, the groups are also calling into question the pharmacy industry’s use of compounded drugs, which are not regulated by the FDA. Death penalty opponents say that pharmacists who provide such drugs violate their own code of ethics which is to provide patients with “optimum benefit” from the medications they provide.

Because many drug companies have made their drugs off-limits for executions, states have turned to using compounded drugs. But, interestingly, compounded drugs are becoming harder and harder to come by and many lawsuits have been filed against states using compounded drugs for executions (the article didn’t state if these two things were related). Many believe the drugs cause pain and suffering.

The American Medical Association (AMA) prohibits its members from participating in the execution of inmates, but like the APA, it has no licensing authority. However, the American Board of Anesthesiology will not provide Board Certification to anesthesiologists who participate in executions.

It is unlikely that the APA will take any definitive stance on the subject any time soon, but the hope by death penalty opponents is that if the organization does prohibit pharmacists from participating in executions and/or prohibits the use of compounded drugs, that that culture will trickle down to state licensing boards. Stay tuned.

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