Death penalty drug withdrawal not result of PR pressure, says MRHC

McALESTER, OK: McAlester Regional Health Center (MRHC) has denied

that it bowed to pressure from Human Rights Watch (HRW) when it decided

to stop providing drugs used to administer lethal injections to the

state corrections department.



"The hospital stopped sales after being pressured by HRW, an

organization that opposes the death penalty," read an article in The

Oklahoman. And the Associated Press reported, "this is the first time a

lobbying group has caused a vendor to stop doing business with the

Corrections Department."



But the hospital maintains that the CEO and key board members were not

even aware of the practice prior to receiving a letter about it from

HRW.



Steve Cushing, director of marketing and strategic services, said the

hospital had supplied the drugs for 18 years, and started doing so prior

to the tenures of current senior executives. The hospital supplies all

of the pharmaceutical products used by the Department of Corrections,

not just the lethal injection drugs.



Cushing said it was only a matter of days before the decision was made,

and denied it had anything to do with threats from anti-death penalty

groups. "We decided it was not consistent with the mission of a

community hospital," Cushing said.



The Oklahoman also printed a strongly worded editorial against HRW last

week. "What troubles us is the role of HRW in this affair," it read.

"The pressure put on (McAlester's CEO) by these anti-death penalty

zealots smacks of a hit-and-run attack." However, HRW agreed that the

hospital was not responding to threats or pressure when it made its

decision.



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