A New Angle on Anti-Death Penalty Advocacy

In the April issue of response is an article by Richard Lord on United Methodists and advocacy against the death penalty. Officially, The United Methodist Church opposes capital punishment: “We oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 164G).

In addition to lawmakers, anti-death penalty activists have begun appealing to pharmacies and pharmacists, the providers of the drugs used in lethal injections, to stop supplying the drugs for purposes of lethal injection, stating that such practice against the community’s code of ethics.

Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress reports:

Almost all major medical associations—the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the American Nurses Association—prohibit their members from assisting in executions. These professional associations believe that taking another person’s life against their will is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath and can’t be reconciled with health workers’ ethical obligation to care for their patients. There can be stiff penalties for violating that. The American Board of Anesthesiology, which updated its policy in this area just four years ago, stipulates that members who participate in executions will lose their medical certification.

The drugs used in the lethal cocktail are already in short supply, with more manufacturers and distributors refusing to supply the drugs for use in capital punishment. Death penalty states have started to turn to compounding pharmacies, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, for alternatives, sometimes with unpredictable results, as was the case for a January 2014 execution in Ohio, during which it took the inmate 24 minutes to die. It was tainted drugs from a compounding pharmacy that caused the meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people in 2012.

On Monday the Supreme Court refused to take a case examining if a death row inmate has a right to know the drugs and methods to be used in his or her execution. The defendants who brought the lawsuit claimed the nondisclosure denies their due process rights

The likelihood of unpredictable execution outcomes increases as states struggle to find lethal drugs and drug mixes. The suppliers of the drugs are becoming increasingly unknown, as death penalty states have begun enacting secrecy laws to protect the suppliers.

Human rights groups have petitioned the American Pharmacists Association asking it to ban its members from participating in executions in any form.

What do you think? Is this a valid route for advocacy? Will you sign the petition?

Further reading:

Lethal Injection, Drug Shortages and Pharmacy Ethics
Compounding Pharmacies and Lethal Injection
“In Opposition to Capital Punishment,” Resolution 5035, The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church

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About Tara Barnes

editor of response, the magazine of United Methodist Women.
This entry was posted in Death penalty and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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