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Doctors Ask Oklahoma, Other Death Penalty States, to Give up Execution Drugs for COVID-19 Patients

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There’s a national shortage of the drugs used to treat COVID-19 patients in ICU beds, and a group of out-of-state doctors penned a letter asking Oklahoma to share its supply with local hospitals.

It’s unclear how many people could be treated with Oklahoma’s supply, but the state plans to use two of the drugs listed in the doctors’ letter to put prisoners to death.

The drugs were originally designed for medical use. The doctors say they can be used to subdue Covid-19 patients who need to be hooked up to ventilators.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist and ICU doctor in Atlanta, helped write the letter. The doctor was already an outspoken critic of using medicine in lethal injections. Now, he says states’ drugs are badly needed.

"My question is, if states have execution drugs — or rather drugs, that in my hand are for the purposes of healing and in their hand are for the purposes of killing — if you’ve got them, I respectfully ask that you hand them over," Zivot said.

Zivot said the request is not about obstructing the death penalty. He’s only interested in getting medicine to his patients.

Zivot said he sent the letter to each of the 28 states that authorize executions.

An Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesperson said the agency hasn’t received requests directly from any Oklahoma hospitals.

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