New film urges corporations to sign ‘Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath’ preventing their drugs being used to kill

May 17, 2012

Image of drugs

The video addresses industry concerns that state Departments of Corrections are covertly buying drugs for use against their manufacturers’ will to kill prisoners.

It describes the stark realities of lethal injection process, which often causes physical suffering amounting to torture, and features co-founder of Martha Lane Fox, Head of Science and Ethics at the British Medical Association Dr Vivienne Nathanson and former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald.

The film urges firms to sign the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath pledging that their medicines must be used to ‘help not harm’. Danish manufacturer Lundbeck was the first to sign the Oath, and has now imposed simple distribution controls which have halted the flow of its drugs to execution chambers while ensuring they remain available for legitimate medical use. The company is now urging others to follow suit.

Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said: “Medicine has no place in executions, and pharmaceutical companies feel this as strongly as doctors. Many of them, however, unaware that prisons across the USA are using their products to kill. Prisons will go to great lengths to procure drugs for lethal injection, with no concern for the interests, wishes or reputation of their manufacturers. Now, more than ever, the industry needs to be united in its opposition to this abuse of its medicines. Lundbeck has shown that companies can control the distribution of their products, that they do not have to be complicit in executions against their will. Others are following suit. By signing up to the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath,companies can make their ethical position clear,  and remove themselves from this awful business for good.”


1. For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 /

2. Reprieve’s Stop Lethal Injections Project works to help pharmaceutical companies prevent their drugs from being used in executions in the USA.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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