More and more pharmaceutical companies are banning the use of their products for the purpose of lethal injections, the latest being pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. According to a recent article at Healthline, a Gallup poll conducted in the fall of 2015 revealed that about 60% of Americans were in favor of the death penalty, but with pharmaceutical companies “dropping out,” what does the future hold?
Considered to be the most “humane” way to execute an individual, that person is put to sleep with sodium thiopental, then given drugs that essentially induce cardiac arrest and stop breathing. Introduced in the 1970s, sodium thiopental (an anesthetic) has been declining recently in terms of manufacturing. In 2009, Hospira, a U.S. manufacturer of the drug, closed its North Carolina plant. Pfizer acquired Hospira in 2015, and has assumed control of other anesthetics American prisons have been experimenting with since sodium thiopental is in short supply. Officials at Pfizer now say these other anesthetics will only be available to buyers who agree not to resell the drugs to prisons.
Pfizer maintains it’s a matter of ethics, and that they don’t want to be connected with products used as lethal injections for capital punishment.
With some 3,000 prisoners on death row in the U.S., how will executions be carried out? While there is no clear answer at the time, some corrections officials are turning to compounding pharmacies, according to reports. One state has even gone back to the old method of execution before a firing squad.
Dudley Sharp, an outspoken death penalty advocate, says that nitrogen gas seems to be the best method because it is painless; however, Sharp agrees it will be for the Supreme Court to decide the methods that are acceptable. Another possibility that will allow lethal injection to continue, according to Sharp, is pentobarbital – an anesthetic that, as of now, is readily available.
It’s understandable that pharmaceutical companies don’t want their products to be associated with effectively taking people’s lives, when their focus is on saving lives.
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