Some Medical Supply Manufacturers Ban Use of IV Equipment in Lethal Injection Executions

Five vials of clear liquid, varying sizes. One is on its side with a syringe in it.

According to a September 14, 2023, article from The Intercept, four medical supply manufacturers are refusing to sell their equipment for use in lethal injection executions. This limitation may further hamper the ability of states to carry out executions, as a multitude of pharmaceutical companies have already placed restrictions on selling their drugs to departments of correction. Joining these companies are Baxter International Inc., B. Braun Medical Inc., Fresenius Kabi, and Johnson & Johnson. Not only do these companies produce the drugs needed for lethal injection, but they also develop and manufacture medical supplies including catheters, IV bags, and syringes, which are also used in lethal injection protocols. According to Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Joshina Kapoor, J&J “develops medical innovations to save and enhance lives… We do not condone the use of our products for lethal injections in capital punishment.” 

Fresenius Kabi, a Germany-based company focused on producing IV devices, told reporters they would seize all products from any corrections departments discovered to be using their products in lethal injections. B. Braun Medical, which is also Germany-based, “prohibits its U.S.-based distributors from selling products to prisons for executions.” Baxter International, a health care company in the United States, confirmed that their 2017 statement prohibiting the use of their products in lethal injection extends to their medical equipment, not just the drugs they produce. 

In 2011, Hospira, a pharmaceutical company now a part of Pfizer, and the sole manufacturer of sodium thiopental, a barbiturate used for anesthetization in executions, ceased production of this drug, citing concern with its use in lethal injection executions in the United States. In the same year, the European Union voted to disallow the selling and transportation of all drugs used for lethal injections in the United States, including sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, another commonly used barbiturate. This made it difficult for many states to procure drugs for executions and because of this difficulty, many states attempted to purchase drugs from other states or make the drugs on their own. In 2013, the Missouri DOC gave an employee $11,000 to travel to Oklahoma and purchase pentobarbital, while several other states turned to compounding pharmacies, who attempt to replicate the pharmaceuticals used in lethal injection.

Fresenius Kabi has previously challenged state’s misuse of its products, suing Nebraska in 2018 for purchasing their drugs to use in lethal injection. This purchase came after the company’s 2012 warning that misuse of their drugs could lead to widespread governmental bans on its sales to the United States. Matt Kuhn, spokesperson for Fresenius Kabi, said that the company is unaware of any states using their products in lethal injection executions and would take the necessary actions if ever needed. Extending their prohibition of the use of their products to include medical equipment may be harder to do, as Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, thinks “as a practical matter, it’ll be difficult for the company to control who gets access to its products.”

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