Association Says Pharmacists Should Not Take Part In Executions

In a newly adopted policy, the American Pharmacists Association says that participating in the creation of chemicals used in lethal injections is contrary to the role pharmacists play as healthcare providers.

The American Pharmacists Association is discouraging pharmacists from participating in executions.

Specifically, APhA adopted a policy at its annual meeting this week that says pharmacists should not take part in lethal injections because “such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of healthcare.”

The new policy is the third that APhA’s House of Delegates has adopted on the issue of pharmacists’ involvement in execution by lethal injection. In 1985, the group adopted a policy that opposed laws and regulations that would mandate or prohibit pharmacists’ involvement in executions. In 2004, it adopted a policy that opposed the use of the term “drug” when referring to the chemical used in lethal injections

The association has more than 62,000 members, consisting of practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians.

In a statement, APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan said the newest policy aligns APhA with the execution policies of other major healthcare associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Board of Anesthesiology.

It also aligns with the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, which late last month adopted a policy recommending its members not take part in creating medications used in executions.

“While the pharmacy profession recognizes an individual practitioner’s right to determine whether to dispense a medication based upon his or her personal, ethical, and religious beliefs, IACP discourages its members from participating in the preparation, dispensing, or distribution of compounded medications for use in legally authorized executions,” the IACP board said in a statement.

While neither of the policies are binding, they are leaving some states wondering whether they will be able to continue using lethal injection as a means of execution, or whether they will have to turn to alternative methods. Tennessee, for example, is now one of eight states that would use the electric chair, while four states would use the gas chamber, according to CBS News. Utah, meanwhile, could turn to firing squads.

According to reports, lethal injection drugs, which typically are combined in a three-drug “cocktail,” are in short supply because many manufacturers of the components, especially in Europe, have stopped supplying them for use in executions. Prisons in some states, such as Texas, are turning to individual pharmacists and compounding pharmacies to mix the chemicals.

The new demand helped prompt the new policies from the two pharmacy associations.

“Pharmacists are healthcare providers, and pharmacist participation in executions conflicts with the profession’s role on the patient healthcare team,” Menighan said.

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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