Another state shields identities of providers of lethal-injection drugs

April 22, 2016

Virginia recently joined Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas in attempting to protect pharmacies, pharmacists, and doctors involved in executions from harassment and threats for death penalty opponents.

Virginia recently joined Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas in attempting to protect pharmacies, pharmacists, and doctors involved in executions from harassment and threats for death penalty opponents.

Gov. Terry McAuliffeAs pharmaceutical companies will no longer provide drugs for the purpose of lethal injections, prison officials throughout the country say they can only obtain the drugs if the identities of compounders are shielded.

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Virginia legislators last week acted after Gov. Terry McAuliffe warned that the state’s ability to carry out capital punishment would disappear without such protections. McAuliffe opposes the death penalty, but objected to a proposal that would have allowed prison officials to use the electric chair to carry out executions when lethal drugs were not available. He called the electric chair “reprehensible.”

"My amendments offered legislators a choice between a practical approach to moving forward with Virginia's death penalty law or a moratorium on executions in our Commonwealth," McAuliffe told the Associated Press.

"Their final decision will allow the Virginia Department of Corrections to continue to enforce the law without resorting to barbaric measures like the electric chair," the governor said.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that lethal injection drugs do not require a prescription and that supplying such drugs does not constitute a practice of medicine.

 

Leonard Edloe, president of the American Pharmacists Association Foundation (APhA), said secretly preparing or providing drugs to end lives is the opposite of the ethical and legal obligations of the pharmacy profession.

“Medicines are made to save lives, not end them. They’re not designed, or tested, to kill people. Using untrained persons to administer them for executions is an inappropriate and dangerous practice, as recent botched executions have shown,” Edloe wrote in an op-ed piece for The Virginian-Pilot.

“Keeping pharmacies out of the execution process is not just a point of principle. Federal law says drugs must be prescribed to a specific patient for a medicinal purpose. An execution clearly does not qualify,” Edloe wrote.

Last year, APhA adopted a policy discouraging pharmacists from providing drugs for use in lethal injections. However, the organization has no legal authority to bar pharmacists from providing drugs for use in lethal injections.