Thursday, 28 October 2010

Made In England

Back when we were the 'workshop of the world',  'Made In England' was a bench mark of quality. A slow and painful  decline in our manufacturing base, with a finishing stroke from Thatcherism put paid to all that, and all we hear about now is outsourcing to  'leaner' (possibly a euphemism for hungrier ?) producers in China and India.

But in one area at least it appears that the knowledge that a product is  'Made In England' is sufficient to ensure that no more questions are asked - the manufacture of lethal drugs for use in judicial killings.

Jeffrey Landrigan was executed in Arizona - this week  after having been sentenced to death in 1989. As so often in these cases  there had been a successions of appeals and reversals , including the original sentencing judge saying that she would not have given him the death penalty if she had known  full extent ofLandrigan's congenital brain damage.

The last appeal had been granted on the grounds that the anaesthetic - Sodium Thiopental - the first of three drugs administered in lethal injection executions, was from an unknown source. There has been  a  shortage since the  US manufacturer of the drug  -  Hospira - have made it know that they are not to happy about it being used in executions, and so a number of US states have been importing the drug. And because the source of the drug was unknown, its 'quality'  couldn't be assured, and it might  therefore constitute a 'cruel and unusual punishment' - and so an illegitimate execution. 

The  Arizona Attorney General argued that they had the right to keep the anonymity  of their overseas supplier, citing legislation used to protect the identity of the officials who preside over executions. However he did say that the drug had been sourced from the UK - and on this basis it was deemed that it was a reliable source and therefore the Supreme Court overturned the appeal and allowed the execution to go ahead.

The identity of this UK supplier has still not been announced- although it appears that there is only one known manufacturer in this country - Archimedes Pharama UK. Although it is of course possible (and will no doubt be argued) that they were unaware of  the intended use when they supplied it. I couldn't possibly comment.

There is an obscene sophistry at every stage of this story:  A man with brain damage kept on death row for over 20 years; arguments over what constitutes 'cruel and unusual punishment' - even a truly bizarre suggestion that the 'weapons' used in judicial killings in future should require FDA approval ! And all this so that western democracies can sleep soundly  - and smugly - whilst condemning the uncivilised practises of stoning or garroting.

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