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Death penalty opponents take their fight to pharmacies; Minnesota a test case

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Minnesota pharmacists have been thrust into the debate over the death penalty.

The Associated Press reports opponents of capital punishment want states to prohibit pharmacists from mixing the combinations of drugs used in lethal injections.

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy introduced the proposal at its meeting Wednesday, but the AP says the board postponed action until September to allow each side time to make its case.

Minnesota abolished capital punishment more than a century ago and does not supply execution drugs to death penalty states, the AP says. But the pharmacy board's executive director, Cody Wiberg, told the wire service after Wednesday's meeting “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.”

Activist pushing the issue

Kelsey Kauffman, a retiree from Indiana, is leading the push to take pharmacists out of lethal injection preparation. In April she told ThinkProgress.org she took up the cause after reading accounts of an Ohio execution in which a combination of drugs that had not been used before took about 25 minutes to suffocate a death row inmate.

ThinkProgress says most of the country's medical associations prohibit their members from taking part in executions. But the American Pharmacists Association has a code of ethics that does not mention executions.

The AP says several pharmaceutical companies have stopped making the drugs used in lethal injections, which has death penalty states looking for new suppliers.

Some states have passed laws making information about the origins of lethal injection drugs a state secret. This week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a Texas death row inmate who argued the source of the drugs that would be used to kill him should be revealed.

According to the AP only a small number of Minnesota pharmacies are licensed to make the sterile preparations that are used for injected drugs.

One of them is The Apothecary Compounding Pharmacy in Sartell. Owner Steve Anderson told the wire service he does not think he would make drugs for a lethal injection. “I would have a problem compounding medications for that use. Just my Christian background. It probably wouldn’t be something that I would agree to anyway,” Anderson said.

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