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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

US healthcare giant files new suit to prevent Arkansas executions

America’s largest drug wholesaler has re-filed suit against the state of Arkansas to stop the use of dishonestly-obtained medicines in four lethal injection executions between April 20th and 27th. 

Lawyers for healthcare giant McKesson had previously filed this suit — a US legal first — on Friday April 14, and were granted a Temporary Restraining Order. The company withdrew the suit when the executions were stayed by US federal court, but retained the option to refile should there be a renewed danger of executions going ahead.

McKesson, which Fortune ranks as America’s 5th most successful company, alleges that Arkansas deliberately misled the firm to obtain its products for use in executions and reneged on an agreement to return them after being provided with a full refund.

The company has tonight refiled its motion in Arkansas court seeking an emergency injunction and the immediate return of its medicine, and suing the Arkansas Department of Correction for rescission based on misrepresentation of a medical license, rescission based on unilateral mistake, replevin, unjust enrichment, and unjust taking.

McKesson’s complaint to the court requests “that its property, the 10 vials of 20mg/25ml Vecuronium, be impounded pending a hearing on its status”. Should this request be granted the planned executions could be halted indefinitely, as a key drug in Arkansas’s lethal injection cocktail expires at the end of April.

McKesson’s suit alleges that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC):

  • purchased the products under the medical license of an Arkansas physician, and “represented that the order was placed at the request of a physician and with the intent to use the products for a legitimate medical purpose.”;
  • had the products shipped to “the address previously used for its healthcare facility’s orders” and asked “that the ordering process not be documented via e-mail”;
  • assured McKesson it would return the products, accepted a full refund, then reneged on its pledge and “kept both the illegally obtained Vecuronium and the returned funds.”

McKesson’s historic intervention represents only the latest and largest escalation in the healthcare industry’s efforts to prevent America’s largest mass execution since the civil rights era. Last week, two global drug makers, Fresenius Kabi and Hikma, filed “friend of the court” briefs in a suit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Maya Foa, an expert at the international human rights group Reprieve said:

“In purporting to enforce the law, Arkansas obtained these drugs by deliberately misrepresenting their intended purpose, then violated an agreement to return them even after accepting a full refund from the supplier.

“In doing so the state has ignored the rights of the business that made the drugs and put public health at risk.

“McKesson has shown that responsible healthcare companies will not tolerate such an assault on life-saving medicines, and will act to prevent this abuse.”

  • McKesson’s April 18 complaint is here.
  • The other companies’ brief is available here.

Source: Reprieve, April 18, 2017

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