Over the past year numerous pharmaceutical companies have tried to distance themselves from lethal injections (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes under pressure). Until now, all these efforts involved the use of an anesthetic, the first drug in 3-drug execution protocols, or the only drug in one-drug protocols. First Hospira, then Novartis, Lundbeck, Kayem and Naari have all objected to the use of their anesthetic products in U.S. executions.
Now, Hospira is under fire for pancuronium bromide, which is the second drug in all 3-drug execution protocols in the U.S. Hospira is the sole provider of this drug for executions; it’s a muscle-relaxant that in executions is used to induce paralysis. Paralysis during executions makes the condemned look like he’s peacefully falling asleep even if he’s in excruciating pain. This makes the witnesses to the execution feel better. Ironically, this masking of possible pain is why pancuronium bromide is widely banned in the euthanizing of animals.