The reason why drug companies don't want to get involved with death penalty

If states are unable to ensure it's carried out in a constitutional way, can the death penalty ever be constitutional?

Share

Three prisoners were executed in the space of 24 hours in the US this week. The grim spectacle came after a seven week hiatus prompted by the horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April.

Clayton Lockett’s execution took nearly two hours. According to the execution team’s official log of the incident, they spent over 45 minutes trying to insert the needle, repeatedly puncturing his arms, legs and neck; eventually, they ‘went to the groin’.

Having inserted the needle, they began to administer the lethal cocktail. But something went wrong. After 94 minutes, Clayton Lockett’s heart was still beating. There were no drugs left. Eventually, the Director called off the execution. Clayton was left to die of a heart attack behind the curtain.

The torturous execution of Clayton Lockett has garnered criticism from around the world, and rightly so. But it was not the first botched lethal injection the US had seen, and if this week is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be the last.

The three executions which were rushed through in Florida, Missouri and Georgia this week were shrouded in secrecy. Like in Oklahoma, all three states refused to disclose any information on either the source or quality of the drugs used in this week’s executions.

Why? The states’ argument is that they are "protecting" the identity of the manufacturer or maker of the drugs used in the execution; that if their identities were to be revealed, they would no longer want to provide execution drugs to the prisons.

The reality, of course, is that the drug-makers have never wanted to see medicines which they developed to save the lives of patients used to end the lives of prisoners in potentially torturous executions.

When the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck put controls in place to prevent prisons from purchasing pentobarbital for use in executions, the Ohio Department of Corrections tried to bypass the controls by ordering drugs through the Ohio Department of Mental Health. One official wrote to another: “When you call them to see if they will sell to us make sure you say we are the Department of Mental Health do not mention anything about corrections in the phone call or what we use the drug for.”

When Texas wanted to buy drugs from a compounding pharmacy in New York, they didn’t disclose the purpose of the purchase; when the pharmacist was alerted to the fact that the drugs were to be used to kill prisoners, he “cancelled the order before it had been filled.”

I’ve worked with scores of manufacturers and pharmacists over the years. None of them want to provide drugs for executions. They are not asking for secrecy, for their identities to be hidden; they are asking simply for their repeated calls for US prisons not to use their drugs to kill prisoners to be heeded.

Clayton Lockett’s execution shocked the world. And, like Dennis McGuire’s botched execution before it, went some way to debunking the myth of the ‘humane’ lethal injection. For a moment, the medical veil was lifted, and we were allowed to glimpse the horror of what goes on behind the curtain of the execution chamber.

Even state officials have been forced to acknowledge that these executions didn’t go to plan. But instead of shining a light onto the cracked and creaking machinery of death responsible for these botched executions, they are drawing an even heavier curtain of secrecy across the chamber, all the while rushing more prisoners to the gallows.

In the seminal US Supreme Court case of Baze v Rees, Justice Roberts wrote that since the death penalty is constitutional, there must be a way to carry it out. Recent events invite us to view this statement differently: if states cannot carry it out in a constitutional way, can the death penalty be constitutional?

Read more: Lawyer's last-minute scramble to halt execution

Maya Foa works at legal charity Reprieve on lethal injection issues. She consults with pharmaceutical companies who wish to put controls in place to ensure their drugs are not sold for use in executions; she also works with the European Commission and other governments on export controls to protect medicines from abuse in lethal injections.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower