Lethal Injection

What’s going on?

Since 1977, more than 1,000 Americans have been executed using lethal injection. This method became increasingly adopted as a ‘more humane’ alternative to hanging and the gas chamber, though it has proven to be anything but humane. The medicines used for lethal injection were originally designed to help save and improve people’s lives – not to end them. As a result, they are administered in experimental doses by prison wardens who are not medically trained, and this often leads to botched procedures.


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The disastrous executions of Brandon Rhode in Georgia, Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona have shocked the nation – and strengthened calls for the practice to be abolished.

Joseph Wood took nearly two hours to die, having been injected with 15 times the originally intended dosage of a lethal drug cocktail by Arizona executioners.

Reprieve has been instrumental in helping big pharmaceutical companies to withdraw from the death penalty drug trade. Most recently, global giant Pfizer confirmed its opposition to the misuse of its medicines in American executions and its commitment to block all sales for that purpose. As a result there are no longer any FDA-approved manufacturers of potential execution drugs. These actions, combined with a European ban on the export of the drugs to the US, have already reduced lethal injection rates. But some states are continuing to execute through a reckless use of experimental drug ‘cocktails’.


What we do:

  • Reprieve US advocates for an end to lethal injections and campaigns to expose the myth of the ‘humane execution’.
  • Reprieve US works successfully with major drug companies, investors, and regulators to help them to prevent misuse of medicines in the execution of prisoners by US states.
  • Our Stop Lethal Injection Project (SLIP) has already led to actions by more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies to prevent the sale of their drugs for lethal injection.
  • Reprieve US works with the industry to stop the supply of execution drugs. Reprieve helps manufacturers break their links with the execution drug trade, supports export regulators in preventing foreign medicines being sold to death rows, and seeks to debunk the myth of the “humane execution”. Many manufacturers have now taken steps to prevent their medicines from being used in executions, and a number of bodies representing the pharmaceutical and pharmacy sectors have spoken out against involvement in capital punishment. Click here to see a list of industry statements on execution drugs.




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