Anti-death penalty campaigners praise move by Pfizer

Anti-death penalty campaigners praise move by Pfizer

Pfizer says it will no longer allow its drugs to be used in lethal injections for carrying out the death penalty in the United States.

The drug manufacturer says it makes products to "enhance and save the lives of patients".

Anti-death penalty campaigners see the decision as a win, but it could have unintended consequences.

Lethal injection is the United States' capital punishment of choice. It's seen as almost humane, and as a medical procedure it implies some sort of tacit approval from the medical community.

However, Pfizer says it no longer wants any part of it.

Campaigners cite cases like that of double murderer Joseph Wood, who lay gasping and gulping for nearly two hours before he died after a lethal injection in 2014.

Legal in 31 American states, there have been 1436 executions since 1976 -- 1261 by lethal injection. At least 75 of those were "botched", meaning executioners departed from legal procedure because something went wrong.

But six out of 10 Americans are still for the death penalty, so some states have come up with alternatives.

In 2014, Tennessee approved the use of the electric chair if lethal drugs aren't available. Last year Oklahoma approved the use of nitrogen gas, while Utah brought back the firing squad.

Still, anti-death penalty campaigners feel yesterday's move by Pfizer puts a win in their column.

If executioners have to resort to more archaic methods of killing prisoners, the American public may start to see the very idea of the death penalty as archaic too.