6-Apr-15 11:00 AM  CST

The American Pharmacist Association Makes a Stance Against Lethal Injection

The Death Penalty in the United States has long been a source of controversy and contention, but earlier this week the American Pharmacist Association (APhA) chimed in with their own response. APhA officially discourages its members from participating in executions, meaning, not providing the injectable drugs now used to complete lethal injection in most states. Last week at their annual meeting the organization took a vote to make the stance official stating, “such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of the pharmacist as a healthcare provider.”

When sodium thiopental, which was the common drug of choice for executions, became in short supply, death row states were forced to use a “cocktail” that included a mixture of drugs, which often included, potassium chloride, midazolam, and pentobarbital, not to mention various other injectable drugs such as hydromorphone and methohexital sodium. The drugs, which are most often highly controlled substances, are often given in order to calm the inmate and eventually stop the heart. The problem is that many times the drugs are given in disproportionate amounts causing the inmate to suffer for an extended period of time before their death.

The APhA sites the stay of three inmates in Oklahoma handed down by the Supreme Court in January due to the botched execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett. Lockett was executed on April 29th, 2014. Given a mixture of midazolam, potassium chloride, and vercuronium bromide, Lockett was to die in minutes of the injection, instead it took 43 minutes for Lockett to die.

The American Pharmacists Association is not the first professional organization to make a stance on executions of this nature. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Anesthesiologist Association have all made similar statements against the execution of inmates by this method.




Goldschmidt, D., (2015), “Pharmacists Discouraged from Providing Meds Used for Lethal Injection”, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/health/pharmacists-discouraged-from-providing-drugs-for-lethal-injection/index.html, retrieved, 3. April 2015


Peralta, E., (2015), “Pharmacists Group Votes to Discourage from Providing Execution Drugs, ”National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/03/30/396419514/pharmacists-group-votes-to-discourage-members-from-providing-execution-drugs, retrieved, 3. April 2015


For additional information on this article, please contact:
Kelley Simmons
Source: Sandy Andrews, CPhT, BLS  

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