New campaign urges pharma firms to sign anti-execution ‘Hippocratic oath’

March 26, 2012

Image of drugs

Legal action charity Reprieve has today launched a campaign calling on pharmaceutical companies to sign a ‘Pharmaceutical Hippocratic oath’ under which they pledge not to become involved in executions by lethal injection.

With prisons in the US becoming increasingly desperate as supplies of key execution drugs start to run short, Reprieve is calling on ethical pharmaceutical companies to make their opposition to the use of medicines in executions clear.

Under the oath, companies pledge that:

“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”

Reprieve is also renewing its calls for Hospira to put in place measures to ensure that its product pancuronium bromide, a paralysing agent used as the second part of a three drug execution ‘cocktail,’ can only be used for legitimate medical use. Hospira remains the only supplier of this drug to US execution chambers.

The drug is cause for particular concern, as it renders prisoners unable to move or speak, and therefore means that, should the anaesthetic fail, they will be unable to signal that they are suffering agonising pain as the final, lethal substance is injected.

Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said: “No company which supports executions by lethal injection can claim to be ethical. By signing up to this pledge, pharmaceutical firms can make their position clear, and avoid becoming involved in this grisly business.

“Hospira has the means to prevent its drug being used to torture and kill prisoners in US prisons. The company says it doesn’t want to facilitate capital punishment, but its lack of action on this issue says otherwise.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please see Reprieve’s website or contact Donald Campbell in the press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082

2. Reprieve has written to Hospira on a number of occasions, asking them to take action to stop their drugs being used in lethal injections – copies of the correspondence can be found on Reprieve’s website. Earlier this year, doctors from around the world also called on the firm to take action.

3. Recent reports suggest that some of the largest executing states in the US only have enough doses of lethal injection drugs left for a handful of executions.