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State Senate Approves Nitrogen Hypoxia Bill, Heads To Governor's Desk

The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that adds a new execution protocol to the state’s list of approved methods. The Sooner State could be the first in the nation to use nitrogen hypoxia if the governor signs off. 

Thebill, authored by State Representative Mike Christian (R-OKC) and State Senator Anthony Sykes (R-Moore), passed 41-0 this morning. 

The process replaces the inmate's available oxygen with nitrogen. The gas is administered through a mask or bag placed over the face. No other state in the country currently uses nitrogen hypoxia for executions, but supporters of the method claim it's quick and humane. It also does not require that a doctor be involved.

Oklahoma is one of several states searching for new execution methods since it has become more difficult to obtain lethal injection drugs.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments later this month on whether Oklahoma’s current protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. It uses a drug that critics say is unreliable. 

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