That's the title of an editorial published in the May edition of Scientific American. The web edition is titled, "Let’s Stop Pretending the Death Penalty Is a Medical Procedure."
Yet even if executions are not medical, they can affect medicine. Supplies of propofol, a widely used anesthetic, came close to being choked off as a result of Missouri's plan to use the drug for executions. The state corrections department placed an order for propofol from the U.S. distributor of a German drug manufacturer. The distributor sent 20 vials of the drug in violation of its agreement with the manufacturer, a mistake that the distributor quickly caught. As the company tried in vain to get the state to return the drug, the manufacturer suspended new orders. The manufacturer feared that if the drug was used for lethal injection, E.U. regulators would ban all exports of propofol to the U.S. “Please, Please, Please HELP,” wrote a vice president at the distributor to the director of the Missouri corrections department. “This system failure—a mistake—1 carton of 20 vials—is going to affect thousands of Americans.”
This was a vast underestimate. Propofol is the most popular anesthetic in the U.S. It is used in some 50 million cases a year—everything from colonoscopies to cesareans to open-heart surgeries—and nearly 90 percent of the propofol used in the U.S. comes from the E.U. After 11 months, Missouri relented and agreed to return the drug.
Such incidents illustrate how the death penalty can harm ordinary citizens.