California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Leading pharma firm Lundbeck signs anti-lethal injection pledge

Leading pharmaceutical company Lundbeck has become the first to sign up to a new ‘Pharmaceutical Hippocratic oath’ for the industry which condemns the use of drugs in executions.

The pledge builds on last year’s successful move by the firm to prevent its products being used to carry out the death penalty in the US – while ensuring that they remain available for legitimate medical use.

Reprieve is now urging other pharmaceutical companies to follow Lundbeck’s lead in signing up to the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath, and ensuring that their drugs do not reach US execution chambers.

Under the oath, companies pledge that:

We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”

Reprieve investigator, Maya Foa said: "Pharmaceutical companies are growing increasingly vocal in their opposition to the abuse of their medicines in US executions. This is a powerful statement from Lundbeck, affirming that the right to health of the patient is the first concern of the industry. Other responsible and ethical pharmaceutical companies would do well to follow suit."

Source: Reprieve, March 28, 2012

US judge blocks all imports of key execution drug

A federal judge yesterday banned the import of a key anaesthetic used in lethal injections, in a major blow to US execution chambers desperate for supplies.

In a highly critical judgment in Beaty v FDA, Judge Richard Leon condemned the poorly-regulated importation of dubious sodium thiopental from Britain and ordered that foreign-manufactured versions of the drug should no longer be allowed into the country.

US execution chambers had turned in desperation to a number of overseas suppliers, including Dream Pharma, a one-man operation above a driving school in Acton, West London, after domestic production of sodium thiopental ceased.

Judge Leon was particularly scathing about the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s failure to carry out its regulatory duties, accusing it of a "callous indifference to the health consequences of those imminently facing the executioner's needle." He ordered the FDA to "immediately notify any and all state correctional departments which it has reason to believe are still in possession of any foreign manufactured thiopental that the use of such drug is prohibited by law and that, that thiopental must be returned immediately to the FDA; and 2. be permanently enjoined from permitting the entry of, or releasing any future shipments of, foreign manufactured thiopental into interstate commerce."
Although the majority of US death rows have now turned away from sodium thiopental to another anaesthetic, pentobarbital, for execution purposes, the ruling will have significant consequences for the import of all lethal injection drugs - especially as stocks of pentobarbital in US execution chambers are reportedly running low. 

Reprieve investigator, Maya Foa said:  "This is a wake-up call for the Food and Drug Administration. Their mandate is to protect public health by assuring the safety and efficacy of drugs used in the USA. It is shocking that they have been allowed to fail in their duties for so long, and at such a cost in terms of human suffering. Judge Leon's strong judgment in this case is most welcome, and will hopefully spell the end of the sordid scramble for execution drugs which we've witnessed over the past 18 months."

Source: Reprieve, March 28, 2012

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