Op-Ed: Big pharma and the death penalty

By Kelsey Littleton ’18

It looks like hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber and execution by firing squad are coming back in style thanks to a certain pharmaceutical company.

Pfizer announced last Friday that they will no longer sell medicine to states that will use it for lethal injections.

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” Pfizer said, and “strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

I believe that Pfizer made the wrong choice in deciding to refuse to sell drugs for lethal injection usage because the death penalty will not be repealed, old and inhumane methods of execution will replace lethal injection, and big business shouldn’t be able to have a say in U.S. law.

Lethal injection is a method of killing someone by injecting them with sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, then pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the entire muscle system and stops the prisoner’s breathing, and finally potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Pfizer refusing to sell drugs for lethal injection will not stop the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 31 states use the death penalty. One decision from a pharmaceutical company won’t stop states from executing people who commit murder, espionage, or treason, the three crimes that are deemed punishable by death.

Also, according to Utah Policy, Utah passed a law saying that if lethal injection drugs aren’t available when it is time for a prisoner to be executed, they will turn to a firing squad to carry out the execution. Pfizer may have hoped that they could prevent capital punishment, but states already have back-up plans in terms of execution if lethal injection can’t be used.

Another reason that Pfizer made the wrong decision is that now states will resort to archaic methods of execution. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, all 31 states use lethal injection as their main method of killing prisoners.

Methods that will now be brought back are hanging, firing squad, electrocution and the gas chamber. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, out of the 1,436 executions since 1976, 1,261 (88 percent) of them have been by lethal injection. Lethal injection is assumed the most humane way to execute a person, due to the anesthetic injected before the paralyzing and heart stopping medications.

No other form of execution involves any humane practices in my opinion. You are either shocked to death, shot multiple times to death, suspended in air until you can no longer breath, or poisoned to death. Because of Pfizer’s drug restrictions states will now have to use old and inhumane forms of execution. Pfizer is partly responsible for the reintroduction of these methods of capital punishment.

I believe that pharmaceutical companies and big business in general shouldn’t be able to have a say in U.S. law, including whether or not to execute prisoners. By refusing to sell drugs for lethal injection, they are trying to stop capital punishment.

According to the Ohio State Bar Association, obstruction of justice is when someone tries to hinder the punishment of a criminal. Pfizer is preventing capital punishment for convicted criminals. Big business shouldn’t be the ones who prevent laws in place from being acted upon or try to change policy by placing “embargoes” on supplies that their own country requires. Pfizer is preventing the United States and state governments from practicing laws that have been put in place for years.

Legally no one is going to charge Pfizer with obstruction of justice because they haven’t broken the law exactly, however they are preventing state laws from being acted out. Also, other pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling lethal injection medications, so it isn’t fully Pfizer’s fault, but they are the last and the largest, which is why my opinion about them making the wrong decision stands.

Pfizer may have had good intentions when announcing that they will no longer sell lethal injection drugs to the government, but their choice was the wrong one. By not selling to states for lethal injection use they are doing more harm than good.

Categories: Nation & World, Opinion, Other, Politics

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