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August 2, 2018: Pope Francis declares "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person".

Even Saint Pope John-Paul II [1978-2005] appealed to abolish the death penalty calling it "cruel and unnecessary".

Pfizer blocks its drugs from being used in lethal injections

States have begun experimenting with new drug cocktails, resulting in a rash of botched executions

pfizer logo

Pfizer, headquartered in New York City, has imposed a new set of controls on its products to ensure they are not used by US prisons to execute death row inmates shutting off the last remaining legal source of the drugs used in lethal injections.

Killing states are in deep disarray as they struggle to obtain drugs to carry out executions and have become increasingly secretive about the source of their lethal injection drugs as a way to subvert a European-led boycott which blocked trade of the supplies to US prison.

In a strongly worded statement Pfizer said "[it] makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. [it] strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment".

More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons; with Pfizer's announcement, this means all FDA-approved manufacturers of all execution drugs have spoken out against the misuse of medicines in lethal injections and taken steps to prevent it.

Midazolam Fomula

Pfizer's decision to tighten the controls on how its drugs are used follows its 2015 acquisition of drug manufacturer Hospira, which produces Midozolam, a drug which despite efforts by the company to prevent US corrections departments acquiring its products, has been used in some of the most controversial recent executions.

In the last five years, manufacturers, ceding to public pressure, have either ceased production of the drugs or tightened protocols on how they are used. The nationwide shortage has pushed Killing states to furtively search for new supplies and some have purchased supplies from compounding pharmacies — an outlet that makes up small batches of the drug to order — while others simply hide the identity of pharmacists and medical laboratories involved in selling and testing the drugs for use in executions.

Pressure on the drug companies has not only come from human rights groups. Trustees of the New York State pension fund, which is a major shareholder in Pfizer and many other producers, have used the threat of shareholder resolutions to push two other companies to impose controls.

death row gurney

"A company in the business of healing people is putting its reputation at risk when it supplies drugs for executions" said the state comptroller in an email. "The company is also risking association with botched executions, which opens it to legal and financial damage."

Killing states have also begun altering their lethal injection protocols and experimenting with new drug cocktails, resulting in a rash of botched executions. They included the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April 2014, in which the prisoner took 43 minutes to die, apparently in great pain, from an untested cocktail of drugs whose source was not made public. A similar scene unfolded just months later on a gurney in Arizona, where Joseph R. Wood III took one hour and 58 minutes to die by lethal injection. "I saw a man who was supposed to be dead, coughing — or choking, possibly even gasping for air" wrote one witness.

Where the killing states cannot obtain supplies, some have elected to bring back draconian methods of carrying out executions. Last year, Utah enacted a law that reinstated the firing squad as a secondary method should it fail to obtain the drugs needed. This followed Tennessee's decision to allow executions by electric chair if the execution drugs are unavailable or lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional.

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia -- Herrera v. Collins 506 US 390 1993

56 countries still carry out the death penalty in 2016

Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Chad, China, Comoros, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Qatar, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, USA, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka reinstates death penalty 2019/07/01

Death Penalty Countries 2016

The Philippines officially abolished the death penalty in 2006 but President Rodrigo Duterte has made a case for the restoration of the death penalty and is openly encouraging the population to summarily kill all drug addicts and pushers: no arrests, no charges, no trial, no judgment.

It is easy to see how this can be of some advantage in a dispute with a neighbour. One simply has to "suspect" the neighbour of being a drug addict and/or pusher and summarily kill that person no questions asked.