Thursday, June 12, 2014

New front for death penalty debate: Pharmacy rules

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a new tactic, death penalty opponents are lobbying state health regulators to prohibit pharmacists from mixing the drugs for lethal injection.
They started Wednesday in Minnesota, where capital punishment doesn’t exist and where there isn’t evidence pharmacists are supplying any execution drugs. The push is driven by concern that unproven drugs have caused botched executions and a belief that pharmacists are duty-bound to promote well-being rather than aid in death.
Minnesota’s Board of Pharmacy opened its discussion but postponed any action until September to give people on both sides of the issue time to make their case. Even then, board executive director Cody Wiberg said his preference would be to let the Legislature decide next year given the controversial nature.
“Just because we don’t have a death penalty and you might get a more sympathetic ear than a state like Texas, it does not mean it will be an easy row to hoe,” Wiberg told The Associated Press after the hearing.
Minnesota abolished its death penalty in 1911 and lawmakers turned back an effort to reinstate it a decade ago.
That helped draw the attention of Kelsey Kauffman, a retired-teacher-turned-activist from Indiana who took up the cause after learning that national codes of ethics don’t specifically prevent pharmacists from assisting in executions. Kauffman and her allies, including Amnesty International USA, plan to approach licensing boards in Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin next in hopes of eventually building a critical mass.

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