Tag: capital punishment

Bioethics Blogs

A Bioethics View of Executions in Arkansas

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This week the state of Arkansas had planned to execute 8 death-row inmates in 4, back-to-back killings using lethal injection over 10 days. The last execution in Arkansas was 12 years ago, so why the sudden rush? As part of the three-drug cocktail used by this state, their supply of midazolam—an anesthetic—is about to expire. If they do not use the drug by the expiration date, then they can’t use it and the company that makes the drug will not sell it to the state for this purpose.

Arkansas had planned to use a combination of 3 drugs in the execution, midazolam (an anesthetic), vecuronium bromide (a paralytic), potassium chloride (to stop the heart). This cocktail would be used to kill the 8 men.

I say “had planned” because last week, two of the prisoners had judges issue stays on their executions. This move is not unusual as there is often a flurry of court appeals and filings in the time before an execution. What is unusual is that over the weekend, another judge placed a stay on all executions on the request of drug companies and distributors—Pfizer, Fresenius, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, and McKesson—who do not want their drugs to be used in an execution. McKesson’s concern is that when they learned the reason the state bought the vecuronium bromide, that they refunded the cost and asked for the drug to be returned. Drug manufacturers and distributors have come out against their products being used to kill prisoners. The association is unlikely to be good for sales or brand reputation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Death penalty drugs: Now Pfizer refuses to provide drugs for capital punishment in the United States

A few days ago, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced a ban on the use of their drugs for capital punishment in the United States. This decision was picked up by American newspaper The New York Times, where the company stated that the manufacture of their products is intended to enhance the lives of patients, and that it strongly opposes their use as lethal injections. It also revealed that they will impose strict controls to prevent distributors selling the drugs to state corrections agencies.

Thus, the 32 states that still have the death penalty will not be able to access these types of drugs, since Pfizer were the last company to provide them. From now on they will be obliged to resort — as they have been doing to combat increasing problems with supply — to drugs in alternative markets or abroad to carry out the executions. They could also opt for other methods, such as execution by firing squad, which was reinstated in the state of Utah in 2015.executions_world_gra624

In recent months, the media have announced that some States have even resorted to the illegal drug market. (El País, 14-05-2016).

The debate on the death penalty has reopened after the recent disastrous execution in Oklahoma of prisoner Clayton D. Lockett, who due to an error on administration of the lethal injection, was still convulsing and moaning 43 minutes later. The prisoner eventually died of a massive heart attack, tied to the gurney.

According to witnesses in McAlester penitentiary (Oklahoma), Lockett suffered brutal convulsions and writhed in the bed while trying to undo the restraints.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Victorian report recommends assisted suicide

Victoria’s ‘Inquiry Into End of Life Choices’ has recommended the legalisation of assisted dying. The report is a sizable document – the summary alone is 40 pages – but the authors saved the most controversial matters till last. After almost 50 recommendations about palliative care and advanced care planning, the report concludes with an unequivocal recommendation that Victoria legalise assisted dying. The final recommendation (no. 49) is:

“That the Victorian Government introduce a legal framework providing for assisted dying, by enacting legislation based on the assisted dying framework outlined in this Report”

The recommendation is followed by an annex outlining a framework for assisted dying, including criteria for eligibility and a proposed system for oversight and review. The sorts of patients who would be eligible would be over 18 years, suffering from a serious and incurable illness, and “at the end of their life (final weeks and months of life)”.

Annexed to the report are two dissenting opinions from committee members.  Inga Peulich MLC summarized the concerns about human destruction via assisted suicide:

Any accidental loss of life – even the loss of one life, means such a regime cannot be justified, just as the loss of life, due to capital punishment, deliberate or due to a possible miscarriage of justice, cannot be justified and was the reason for its abolition.

Dr Rodney Syme, vice-president of Dying with Dignity Victoria, said he was “delighted” by the report, particularly the approach it took to dismissing “fear-based arguments” against the law. Syme said he was confident parliament would pass the laws if both major parties allowed a conscience vote.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Advance Request for Euthanasia?

Catherine Ferrier raises concerns about advance requests for medical assistance in dying.

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The June 6 deadline for legislation in response to the Carter judgment has come and gone, and our government has yet to adopt a law regulating medical assistance in dying. Too few of us have any idea what we are rushing into.

In the Carter decision the Supreme Court judges stated that the risks associated with physician-assisted death can be limited through a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards. In contrast, the pressure is on to offer death as a solution for all forms of suffering, available to virtually everyone, including those who fear future suffering or disability.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wants Bill C-14 amended to include the recommendation of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, “That the permission to use advance requests for medical assistance in dying be allowed any time after one is diagnosed with a condition that is reasonably likely to cause loss of competence or after a diagnosis of a grievous or irremediable condition but before the suffering becomes intolerable….”

The Old Age, The Seven Ages of Man by Robert Smirke (1798- 1801)

I have spent the last 30 years diagnosing, treating, and caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It takes no special insight to realize that they are the principal intended “beneficiaries” of this recommendation.

Dutch academic Boris Brummans wrote in his 2007 article Death by Document of his father’s euthanasia death through an advance directive. His father had cancer, not dementia, but the issue is the same.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Pfizer to stop supplying drugs for executions

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has declared that it will not provide drugs to correctional institutions for executions. The announcement comes after its takeover last year of Hospira Inc, a company which manufactured several drugs which were being used in capital punishment.

A revised policy statement, posted on its website yesterday, says:

Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.

Pfizer’s new policy will not stop capital punishment in the US. But it will make it more difficult for states where it is legal to access the drugs. Furthermore, it is a public relations coup for anti-death penalty campaigners. Maya Foa, of Reprieve, a UK lobby group, told the media:

“Pfizer’s actions cement the pharmaceutical industry’s opposition to the misuse of medicines. Over twenty-five global pharmaceutical companies have taken action to prevent the misuse of their medicines in executions; with Pfizer’s announcement, this will mean that all FDA-approved manufacturers of all execution drugs have spoken out against the misuse of medicines in lethal injections and taken steps to prevent it.”

Pfizer’s previous policy statement (cached) dealt with the supply of drugs for both capital punishment and euthanasia. The revised policy mentions only the former. It is not clear whether it will continue to supply drugs for euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium.  

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Fordham Panel to Address Questions about Human Rights in Age of Fear, Violence and Scarce Resources 

By: Michael Aprea       

Few realities have shaken the foundation of human rights and the inherent liberties viewed common to all as profoundly as fear. Human rights, the set of rights believed to be intrinsic to the human person, are the cornerstone of modern society. They are the very building blocks of our nation and of the free world.

On April 5th, the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture and the Fordham Center for Ethics Education will hold an interdisciplinary forum to address questions about the endurance of human rights in the wake of society’s struggle to maintain both justice and compassion in world torn by violence, injustice, hatred and limited resources. This symposium, titled “In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources,” will feature distinguished speakers:

Ivan Šimonović: Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Consolee Nishimwe: Rwandan genocide survivor and author of Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Celia B. Fisher, PhD: Marie Ward Doty University Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology, Director Center for Ethics Education, Fordham University

Matthew C. Waxman: Liviu Librescu Professor of Law; Faculty Chair, Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security, Columbia University

Andrea Bartoli, PhD: Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University

The panel will address questions at the core of human rights. Historically, through an undertone of fear, rhetoric has been a call to see the other not as human with needs and rights common to self; rather fear has been manipulated to shape the other into a threat to one’s own needs and rights.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources

Pervasive fears sparked by acts of terror, violent crime and resource scarcity test our values and raise critical questions about how enduring our support for human rights may be.

When does the right to live safely and securely trump our obligation to uphold basic human rights? Is our attitude toward extreme remedies such as capital punishment and torture rooted in principle or in pragmatism? What do we owe survivors of genocide and other tragedies?

Join us for a forum on the challenge of upholding human rights, compassion and justice in an increasingly insecure world, April 5th, 2016, 6 – 8 p.m., Fordham Law School.

Admission is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to crcevent@fordham.edu, or call 212-636-7347. For more information, please visit the conference website.

Speakers:

Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations

Ivan Šimonović is the former Minister of Justice-designate of Croatia. He has worked as a politician and diplomat, working with organizations like the Croatian Diplomatic Corps. Šimonović is a graduate of the University of Zagreb Law School. In 1997, Šimonović moderated the United Nations Economic and Socil Council. In May 2010, Šimonović was appointed became the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Consolee Nishimwee

Consolee Nishimwee, Rwandan genocide survivor and author of Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Consolee Nishimwe is an outspoken speaker on the topic of genocide, and an active advocate against rights violations. She works with global issues of women’s rights, and with other genocide survivors.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

JAMA debates assisted suicide

The latest issue of JAMA showcases the views of leading American doctors and lawyers on physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The theme is captured by the headline above one of the articles: “Physician-Assisted Dying: Turning Point?” After California legalised it last year, other US states could follow. Nothing novel emerges from the discussion, other than a sense of impending change.

One article by a leading advocate of PAS, Timothy Quill, of the University of Rochester argues that “Patients with serious illness wish to have control over their own bodies, their own lives, and concern about future physical and psychosocial distress. Some view potential access to physician-assisted death as the best option to address these concerns.”

Dr Quill et al also insist that the terminology must change:

“Physician-assisted ‘suicide’ connotes mental illness, and suggests a self-destructive aspect of such decisions that many find offensive. Even the term physician-assisted death, although better than physician-assisted suicide, puts more emphasis on the physicians’ role than may be warranted. This issue is driven by patients and reflects fundamental concerns of patients living with serious illnesses who feel that they are being destroyed by their illness; they are seeking what they regard as a small measure of self-preservation. The term ‘hastening death’ is less judgmental and respects the profound search for preservation of the self that many patients seek, even at the last moments of their lives.”

Dr Tony Yang, of George Mason University, and Dr Farr Curlin, of Duke University, go to more fundamental issues. They question whether doctors ought to support the desire of a few patients for unlimited autonomy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Interview: David S. Oderberg

Interview: David S. Oderberg

David S. Oderberg is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK, and has written extensively on bioethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, animal rights, and capital punishment from a natural law, anti-consequentialist viewpoint. He is also the editor of Ratio, an international journal of analytic philosophy. Xavier Symonds, Deputy Editor of BioEdge, asked him to comment on the state of contemporary bioethics.

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Xavier Symons: In your opinion, what are the main philosophical concepts that bioethicists tend to misunderstand?

David S. Oderberg: There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the bioethics industry (because it is something of an industry), although I’d prefer to put it in terms of simple mistakes or confusions. I don’t think most bioethicists misunderstand what they believe or recommend at policy level, since most have a clear agenda, which is to pull apart as many “taboos”, i.e., commonsense traditional prohibitions, as possible.

A lot of the time, the ends justify the means inasmuch as bioethicists will use whatever argument they have to hand, whether good, bad, or indifferent, to advance a prior agenda. In that sense, I suppose you could say they misunderstand the function of argument, which is to get to the truth, not to advance a previously-adopted policy.

I recall reading, a number of years ago, a report by the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority, produced by a handful of bioethicists and devoted to defending human embryo experimentation. It was abundantly clear from the report that the authors (most of whom I had barely heard of as far as the philosophy profession is concerned) were intent on recommending embryo experimentation to the government as morally permissible, and they used whatever argument or “theory” they could to defend it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.