Saturday, 22 January 2011

Execution Drug

There's a story in this morning's WaPo that the company, Hospira, that makes sodium thiopental, the drug of choice for lethal injection in the US, has decided that they will stop manufacturing it.  Hey, good for them, a refreshing example of a company doing the right thing and acting ethically in spite of government pressure rather than because of government pressure.   Right? 

Well, okay, it's not quite that simple.  It seems that the final push for this came when the company went to move its production facility from the US to Italy and the Italian government demanded evidence the "company ensure the drug would be used only for medical purposes".  Realizing they couldn't give such guarantees so long as the US was using it to perform executions, the company stopped making it.  But this wasn't simply a case of the company doing what the Italian government asked of it.  It had made its objections to the use of the drug clear in a March 2010 letter written to the Ohio correctional facilities in which they expressed their wishes that the product not be used for executions, it always could have resumed or maintained production of the drug in the US. 

But what I found interesting is the objections that "some blasted another country's interference in the U.S. criminal justice system". It's unclear to me how another country is interfering in the US criminal justice system. By my reading, they're insisting that the company not actively contribute to executions by providing drugs used in this act.  It's a bit of a leap to call that "interfering".   Refusing to knowingly contribute to carrying out a morally objectionable action is not, at all, the same thing as interfering in the carrying out of the action.

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