US Pharmacists Association Urges Members to Stop Providing Execution Drugs

A leading association for pharmacists in the United States has instructed its members to stop providing drugs for use in lethal injections, a change that could make carrying out executions even more difficult for death penalty states. Late last month, delegates of the American Pharmacists Association approved a declaration saying the organization “discourages pharmacist participation in executions on the basis that such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care.” The association, which has more than 62,000 members, is responsible for determining pharmacists’ ethical standards, but cannot legally force its decisions. Pharmacists now join physicians and anesthesiologists in having national organizations with ethical codes that discourage their members from partaking in executions. We are joined by Dr. Leonard Edloe, a retired pharmacist who co-wrote the American Pharmacist Association’s new policy against supplying lethal injection drugs. Last year, he received a lifetime achievement award from the association. He now serves as a pastor in Virginia after owning and operating a community pharmacy for four decades.

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AMY GOODMAN: That’s Chumbawamba performing “Waiting for the Bus,” about the case of still imprisoned Gary Tyler in Louisiana. The case of Gary Tyler has been called one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the modern history of the United States. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. A leading association for US pharmacists has instructed its members to stop providing drugs for use in lethal injections, a change that could make carrying out executions even more difficult for death penalty states. Late last month, the American Pharmacists Association’s delegates approved a declaration saying it “discourages pharmacist participation in executions on the basis that such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care.” Pharmacists now joining physicians and anesthesiologists in having national organizations with ethical codes that discourage their members from partaking in executions. For more, we go to Richmond, Virginia where we’re joined by Dr. Leonard Edloe. He co-wrote the American Pharmacist Association new policy against supplying lethal injection drugs. Dr. Edloe, welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain this to position and what it will mean for the death penalty in the United States.

DR. LEONARD EDLOE: Well as pharmacists, we take an oath that we will uphold the health of individuals. What happened, several European countries, no longer supply the drugs necessary to make it what we might call an inefficient process, and so they have turned to compounding pharmacies. And in fact, the class of drugs used really don’t produce the sedation. And so what happens now, the states will not be able — we’ll encourage them not to go to these pharmacies to have these drugs compounded, and the process just won’t take place. You probably remember the case out in Oklahoma where the patient was not sedated. The patient actually died of a heart attack. It’s not the right drug. It doesn’t work. And so we just don’t want our pharmacists being involved either in the dispensing of the drugs or the use because, really, the prescriptions are illegal. They aren’t prescriptions, their purchase orders. And it just doesn’t work. After hearing your conversation, it just makes me feel so much better about what my part I played last week in getting this resolution passed.

AMY GOODMAN: How difficult was it to get passed, Dr. Edloe, in the American Pharmacists Association?

DR. LEONARD EDLOE: Well once it got going, it wasn’t hard. It was difficult from the beginning because so many people I talk to didn’t want to be involved, didn’t want to sign. And then it was just like at the last minute, everything just came together. The compounding pharmacists took a position and no one spoke against the resolution. There was a lot of discussion because we go through a long process. This process has been about a year and people have come up with all kind of crazy question so we wouldn’t support the resolution. We had to make some changes to adopt. But what you read is basically what we adopted. And I think even though we don’t have the power that the resolution of the anesthesiologists have, in other words, if they are involved, they can lose their certification, so they can go to the hospital, this is just calling on the ethics. And I think 99 percent of the pharmacist will go along with that. Anything in society, that’s the way it is. There’s always a few people.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Leonard Edloe, I want to thank you for being with us. We will link to the American Pharmacist Association new policy.