Turn Over Execution Drugs for COVID-19 Fight, Experts Plead

Some of the same medicines are used when putting a patient on a ventilator
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2020 4:32 PM CDT
Doctors Fighting Virus Want States' Lethal Injection Drugs
Bottles of the sedative midazolam at a hospital pharmacy in Oklahoma in 2014.   (AP Photo/File)

States that impose capital punishment by lethal injection have something needed to fight COVID-19. Some of the same pain relievers, sedatives, and paralytics administered in executions are used in hospitals to calm patients when putting them on a ventilator, Newsweek reports. In an open letter, medical professionals are asking state prison systems to turn those drugs over to save lives instead. "These medicines were never made or developed to cause death—to the contrary, many were formulated to connect patients to life-saving ventilators and lessen the discomfort of intubation," the letter says. There's a shortage of the sedative midazolam, for example, partly because of increased demand. In addition, Pfizer reports a delay on the manufacturing end. Fentanyl citrate, which Nebraska uses in executions, also is in short supply.

States don't always publicize which drugs they have in stock, but 19 out of 28 states with the death penalty states use sedatives and paralytics in their execution protocols, per the Guardian. And Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee have said they have large amounts of sedatives and paralytics. Florida alone has enough rocuronium bromide to intubate about 100 patients, experts say. "Your stockpile could save the lives of hundreds of people," the letter pleads. "Those who might be saved could include a colleague, a loved one, or even you." The drugs the states have on hand could, in total, help save hundreds of patients, the experts said. Only Wyoming has answered the letter, saying it doesn't have any of the needed drugs. If the states give up their stockpiles, Newsweek points out, they could have trouble rebuilding them. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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