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March 30, 2011

"Danish company won't stop US execution drug"

The title of this post is the headline of this new AP piece.  Here are the details:

A Danish company that unwittingly has become a key supplier of an execution drug in the U.S. says it's not going to withdraw or restrict it, even though it objects to the chemical being "misused" for capital punishment.

CEO Ulf Wiinberg told AP on Wednesday that Lundbeck A/S is doing "all we can" to dissuade U.S. states from using pentobarbital for lethal injections, but won't pull it from the U.S. market.  He said Lundbeck also decided against rewriting U.S. distribution contracts to prevent the drug from being sold to prisons.  Wiinberg says "we don't believe it will work and we will not do it."

March 30, 2011 at 03:46 PM | Permalink


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How quickly principles fade when profit becomes involved. I guess anything for the almighty...krone.

Posted by: anon | Mar 30, 2011 5:17:40 PM

It is not up to a company in Denmark to decide whether the United States may impose the death penalty. It is up to the elected and judicial branches of this country, and they have spoken. Among "principles," the principle of democratic self-government and self-determination is what counts most.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 30, 2011 6:37:31 PM

Human Rights Violations by the US highlighted by Lundbeck:
1. Ongoing use of the death penalty against UN recommendations and world trends of Human Rights standards
2. Misuse of medicine, for the taking of healthy human life, against the wishes and directions of the manufacturer, who supplies this drug specifically for the saving of life.
Letter received from Lundbeck:
Dear Peter Bellamy

Lundbeck was shocked to learn about the use of one of our medicines in connection with executions. This goes against everything we stand for and we have nothing to do with this use, nor have we sold the medicine to prisons. What we have done is to write directly to the prisons - the only ones who can stop the use - and urged them to stop this use. Further to this we have investigated every possible option to stop this misuse, but the problem is that no one can control the use of a medicine in the US - it is not illegal to use a medicine for purposes other than it is approved for.

The medicine in question is among other things used to threat life threatening epilepsy and as the patients are our first priority we won't do the only thing that would stop the misuse - withdrawing the product. If we did that thousands of patients would be left without this treatment option, for many the only option, with the risk of permanent brain damage or death.

This is unfortunately the dilemma we find ourselves in. As a member of UN Global Compact we have of course acted according to the recommendations given by the UN, which I have inserted below for your information.

From UN Global Compact homepage:
How do companies that sell products that can easily be misused to infringe human rights protect against such misuse, so that that their legitimate sale can continue?"
Challenges presented by the country context

In some countries, products may be misused as a result of national laws, government policies and social practices – i.e. latent contextual issues that the company has little prospect of changing. Where this is the case, a responsible company may be faced with a difficult choice. It may:

* Continue legal sales of the product in that country despite the danger that the product may be used to commit human rights violations, or
* Refuse to do business in that country, and so forgo the revenues that would have been generated through the legal sale of its products there

Following the first course of action could imply that companies owe no responsibility for their actions beyond legal liability. The second course of action may be feasible and in line with a company's ethics code, or it may be unrealistic, as it can severely limit the countries and markets in which companies can conduct business. Failure to sell into certain markets could also be ethically wrong if the product in the majority of its use scenarios offers broader human and social benefits when used in the way in which it is intended.

Considering this, the dilemma for a responsible business is how to best ensure that the legitimate products it sells are not used to facilitate human rights violations – particularly given the commercial, political and ethical constraints that they are likely to face in such situations.
Best regards

Posted by: peter | Mar 31, 2011 3:45:56 AM

The independently-minded commenter Marc Shepherd noted this week that abolitionists, who once enthusiastically put forward LWOP as the alternative to the DP, are now trying to dismantle LWOP as well, just as retentionists had predcited they would.

We now see the same bait-and-switch going on with lethal injection. For years, abolitionists sought to displace the gas chamber and the electric chair with what they said they viewed as the more humane procedure of injection. Having won this battle, they now turn against injection as well.

Whether it's the country of origin or the particular drug mix, it turns out that lethal injection is ALSO a violation of "human rights" -- human rights being defined as congruent with the left wing agenda du jour. No viewpoint diversity need apply.

What a surprise!

Of course it's not a surprise at all to those who understood the wellsprings of abolitionism to start with. There are several themes to it, and not all abolitionists are signing on, but more often than not, this is what lies at the heart of it:

The murderer isn't responsible, not really. Society is responsible, and society is unfair. The murderer is the victim. The actual victim -- i.e., the person who wound up dead -- is simply an inconvenience to be (perforce) acknowledged but mostly just dismissed.

This is the underlying reason behind the attack on the Danish drug maker. It's not about method of execution; that's a dodge. It's about the death penalty itself.

The problem for abolitionism is that the death penalty itself is overwhelmingly supported by the public and routinely wins in court. Unable to win public or judicial support for what they really want, abolitionists conduct a proxy war to get what they want without having to actually say what it is. This is what the current Danish phenobarbital fight is actually about.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 31, 2011 10:02:59 AM

States need to start switching to the firing squad.

Posted by: alpino | Mar 31, 2011 2:25:49 PM

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