Doctors are asking states to use their lethal-injection drugs to treat patients with COVID-19, instead

lethal injection
  • States that execute prisoners by lethal injection have a stockpile of drugs that, amid the pandemic, are now in short supply.
  • "Your stockpile could save the lives of hundreds of people," a group of doctors and public health experts wrote in an April 9 letter to state prison officials.
  • States like Texas have been unable to carry out executions due to the disruption in the court system.
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US doctors and public health experts are asking states to hand over their death-penalty drugs - to save lives.

In an April 9 letter to directors of state prisons, obtained by The Marshall Project's Keri Blakinger, the medical experts said: "the medicines your states are currently holding for use in lethal injection executions are in short supply and desperately needed to treat patients suffering from COVID-19."

States that carry out lethal injections use a cocktail of drugs, including sedatives and paralytics, that can also be used to alleviate respiratory problems and enable the use of a ventilator. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that supplies of such medications were critically short. 

"We're running out of all the drugs," one doctor told the paper. 

Over 2,600 people are currently awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Thirty states, plus the federal government, "use lethal injection as their primary method," while others use it as a backup.

Since the pandemic, states have not even been using these drugs for that. On April 1, a Texas court issued a stay of execution, its third since the outbreak, citing the disruption to the court system.In their letter, the experts, such as Harvard Medical School's Prashant Yadav and David Waisel, argued that the drugs death-penalty states typically use to take lives could, instead, be used to help front-line doctors extend them.

"Your stockpile could save the lives of hundreds of people," they wrote. "At this crucial moment for our country, we must prioritize the needs and lives of patients above ending the lives of prisoners."

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