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Statement on the Death Penalty


Addendum to the Oklahoma Catholic Bishops' Statement on Capital Punishment

We need to add one final note about the peculiar Oklahoma law that requires legal executions be performed by lethal drug injections.

We find this method to be objectionable on two scores:

First, executions by lethal drug injections necessarily involve health care professionals. While medical doctors apparently will not administer the killing drugs, "a skilled phlebotomist" - a member of the health care community will do so. The drugs will be secured from pharmaceutical entities related to the health care industry.

The use of health care professionals and the health care industry, whose occupation is to maintain human health and prevent death, to kill, we find to be both repugnant and open to dangerous developments. This use of health care professionals could condition both the professionals and the public to accept the notion of death at the hands of the profession.

Secondly, the very ease with which death is accomplished by drugs--undoubtedly adopted by the Legislature as an humanitarian effort--could lead to easier imposition and acceptance of the death penalty. Also, in light of recent world history, the painless manner of state-inflicted deaths could conceivably move beyond the death penalty to other forms of state-inflicted killings or state accepted killings, perhaps in the areas of eugenics or euthanasia.

Procedures for a Lethal Injection Execution

A paper entitled "Procedures for the Execution of Inmates Sentenced to Death," issued on June 15, 1982, by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, states under paragraph 6: "Sixty days prior to any scheduled execution, the warden will recruit a skilled phlebotomist either from within the Department or from the general community."

The Medical Profession and Killing

William L. Shirer describes the involvement of the German medical profession in Nazi atrocities and executions in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," pages 1274 to 1288. (Fawcett Publications, Inc., Greenwich, Conn., 1959)


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