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Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny 483

Posted by Soulskill
from the terrible-systems-generate-terrible-problems dept.
carmendrahl writes: "Lethal injections are typically regarded as far more humane methods for execution compared to predecessors such as hanging and firing squads. But the truth about the procedure's humane-ness is unclear. Major medical associations have declared involvement of their member physicians in executions to be unethical, so that means that relatively inexperienced people administer the injections. Mounting supply challenges for the lethal drug cocktails involved are forcing execution teams to change procedures on the fly. This and other problems have contributed to recent crises in Oklahoma and Missouri. As a new story and interactive graphic explains, states are turning to a number of compound cocktails to get around the supply problems."
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Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny

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  • by jpvlsmv (583001) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:48PM (#47076313) Homepage Journal

    I still don't understand why the lethal injection isn't just a bunch of heroin that's been confiscated in the latest raid. People OD on heroin without being horribly uncomfortable.

  • Frosty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:48PM (#47076315) Homepage Journal

    If people don't want to die a a horrid painful death they should choose their parents better - that way they'd be able to afford a better lawyer.

  • Re:Frosty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:57PM (#47076413)
    Or maybe they should simply not rape and murder that 9 year old girl.
  • by freeze128 (544774) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:58PM (#47076421)
    While there are so many things that can kill a human, I find it hard to believe that they are having a hard time killing humans!

    Veterinarians have to euthanize animals comfortably all the time. Why not use the same drug?
  • Re:Frosty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:00PM (#47076467)

    If people don't want to die a a horrid painful death they should choose their parents better

    If people don't want to die a horrid painful death, they should avoid being born in the first place. What do you think most of us have to look forward to in the last couple years of our lives?

  • Re:Frosty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:02PM (#47076511)

    Maybe they didn't. A not-insignificant number of death row inmates aren't even guilty.

    And the point about wealth and having a better lawyer is quite valid too.

    Personally, I'm not against the idea of the death penalty, but I can't support it in practice knowing that we kill the innocent sometimes along with the guilty.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:03PM (#47076527)

    I'm surprised the state of Oklahoma hasn't tried to make carrying out death sentences a profit center. There's no shortage of people in that state who wouldn't actually pay to be on a firing squad. And plenty of them would pay even more to get to do it up close and personal with a handgun.

    They could even open it up to the residents of Texas and add in an out of state surcharge for the privilege.

  • Only by idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:04PM (#47076543) Journal
    In this case 'more humane' basically just means 'doesn't make the audience as squeamish'. As it turns out, this is a very poor indicator. Especially since the usual injection cocktail contains Pancuronium, or another curare-like muscle relaxant. Not an anaesthetic, or toxic in itself; but causes nice, peaceful-looking flaccid paralysis. Unless one of the other ingredients fully sedates you, or kills you, you just suffocate; but no unseemly twitching or spasms, no grimacing, gasping, any of that ugly stuff; because with the complete loss of muscle control, how could you?

    The 'barbaric' methods, by contrast, don't look all nice and clean and medical; but they also don't involve deputy Cletus playing amateur phlebotomist with a dodgy, failure-prone, three-step injection process (compare to, say, how we put domestic animals to sleep, if you want to see somebody who knows their stuff handle a lethal injection...), they involve a lot of gore; potentially some peripheral nervous activity causing creepy corpse twitch; but they depend either on simple mechanical principles(as with the guillotine) or skills that prison staff likely have in more than adequate amounts (as with firing squads).

    Personally, I'm not against the notion of capital punishment in principle; but the way we do it in the US is like a grimly parodic example of what not to do, and how not to do it. Despite the availability of trivially better procedures, we insist on using a variety of ass-backwards Mad-Libs protocols with a history of unreliability and no obvious merits. Our irrational, emotionally misguided, approach carries over to the selection of victims as well: (even aside from the documented cases where the whole trial was a frame-up, with gross prosecutorial, judicial, and sometimes even defense attorney, misconduct) we execute largely on the basis of emotional salience, rather than actual danger. Kill somebody, up close and personal, nice and gruesome? Potential death penalty in jurisdictions that conduct it. Kill a large number of people, by some polite, white-collar, epidemiological chicanery? Probably just a civil matter, you might even get to settle without admitting wrongdoing.

    Nobody likes violent criminals, and they are notably unsympathetic characters; but (precisely for those reasons) their influence tends to be self-limiting. The really dangerous ones are smart enough to make it to a position of power and influence, where the rewards are better and the penalties oh so much smaller. If we were serious about rationally applying capital punishment, it'd be a lot easier to be taken out and shot for various flavors of fraud and corruption, rather than effectively impossible, as now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:11PM (#47076637)

    There was a discussion on this topic on another site I was visiting, about a week ago.

    The consensus was that the problem with using nitrogen asphyxiation was that it didn't cause enough suffering.

  • by OSULugan (3529543) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:14PM (#47076695)

    If we're going to do executions, then the whole "pain-free" premise should go right out the door. We're killing the criminal in retaliation for a crime. Why does it need to be so painless? I mean, don't torture the criminal by starvation or dehydration or anything like that. But hanging, guillotine, firing squad, etc. are all effective means. You could even give some local to ease the pain on some of these methods.

    Otherwise, all you're really doing is admitting that execution isn't right, but trying to get away with it anyway.

  • Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:18PM (#47076749)
    If it is illegal to kill, it should be for the state as well. Anything else is hypocritical. Period. It is not about justice, nor does having capital punishment provide a deterrent that significantly affects violent crime rates.
    I heard on the radio just this morning that due to the supply difficulties, Tennessee is passing/has passed a law to bring back the electric chair. Now that's humane!
    Capital punishment is largely about one thing. One thing that politicians tend to do very well to keep their constituents in line. Fear-mongering. See.. I am tough on those rapin, theiving, murderin (insert carefully chosen group that panders to your audience here).
  • Re:Frosty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:24PM (#47076847)

    So... what's an acceptable error rate? If "only" 10% of the people we kill are innocent, is that OK?

    If you think it's anywhere near 10%, you are deluding yourself. But as I said, even one is too many. Most of the cases we know about occurred in the days before the current level of sophistication of CSI, what with DNA and other techniques.

    I agree with you that the Death Penalty is morally wrong, but suggesting huge numbers of the many people on Death Row are innocent is unrealistic and detrimental you your argument.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:24PM (#47076861)

    [...]no tv, no internet, no magazines, no books, no human contact at all

    That's a pretty severe punishment, but it's roll-back-able - no one's been deprived of life.

    No. No it cannot be rolled back. What you are describing is probably among the most severe and permanently damaging forms of torture known to man. The human mind is not evolved to maintain stability without outside contact. I'd rather die than spend a decade (or 2 or 3 or 4) locked in a box the way you describe. I'm actually horrified that you think it's an acceptable form of justice.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:28PM (#47076915)
    despite all the jokes you've heard we're pretty damn resilient and it takes a surprising amount of effort to kill us. The trouble is once you start killing someone our bodies will rebel (trying to get us to get away from whatever it is that's killing us). That's pain in a nutshell.

    There aren't a lot of ways to kill a man without significant pain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or ignorant.

    Now, a better question is why are we still killing people when at least 4% of ppl killed are verifiable innocent? I guess it's cheaper than dealing with the lawsuits for false imprisonment.
  • by preaction (1526109) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:36PM (#47077033)

    We don't have a justice system, we have a revenge system. It continues because we will always want revenge on those that damage us, society. We already know we're murdering people, these people "deserve" to be murdered.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:41PM (#47077107) Homepage Journal

    Well, you've hit on the point of lethal injection. The real appeal of the elaborate pseudo-medical procedure is that it masks the nature of what is being done to the condemned, makes it seem nicer than it really is.

    If being humane toward the condemned were the highest priority, firing squad or guillotine would be the best choices among the traditional execution methods. In fact, and ironically, the traditional method of *extrajudicial* execution would be most reliably humane: a shot in the back of the head.

    The reason we don't use these methods is that they're embarrassingly messy, and leave an ugly residue. We'd prefer to have a nicely intact body as if the condemned died peacefully, but in fact the catastrophic destruction of the condemned bodies is what makes the uglier methods more humane. Instant oblivion is is clearly preferable to an elaborately drawn out psuedo-medical procedure, especially an untried one carried out by inexperienced hands.

    The reason we carry out lethal injections isn't humane, it's political.

  • Re:Frosty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:58PM (#47077297)

    Per the Constitution, the acceptable error rate is 0% false positives and any amount of false negatives.

    However, the issue here is that the error rate applies to the conviction, not the punishment. People who oppose the death penalty on the grounds that it kills innocent people are making the implicit claim that it's somehow not just as bad for those innocent people to rot in prison forever, which is a horrifically barbaric ideology in and of itself.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:38PM (#47077787)
    It's not about meddling with sovereignty, it's about PR. None of the European countries are trying to turn the US into a colony. That's idiotic. You're drinking way too much of the far-right wing conspiracy koolaid if you can type that out.

    Europeans see the death penalty as barbaric. Which, given our fellow executors [static-economist.com], is accurate. Companies who make drugs obviously don't care about criminals dying versus the profit they'd make directly, they just don't want to face an outrcry from their European customers by being associated with that.

    In the same way, liberals opposed to the death penalty aren't really concerned with stealing red state power. It's more that we don't want to be associated with people who insist that beheading is justice.
  • by Wookact (2804191) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:01PM (#47078031)
    There is no evidence that it is a deterrent though. In fact in some places there is more crime. Criminals are real bad about thinking of long term consequences, so if there is no deterrent you save no lives, and jet still kill at least 4% innocent.
  • Re:Decapitation. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:45PM (#47078483) Homepage

    You don't understand, a lot of the people who are pro-executions don't want a painless peaceful death; not even when the statistics show that about 1 in 20 people are innocent.

  • by Plunky (929104) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @02:06AM (#47081683)

    How many young women and girls were kidnapped, raped, tortured, and eventually killed by Ted Bundy after the state of Florida lit him up like a Christmas tree?

    That's what I thought. It seems he was pretty thoroughly deterred.

    Except, that is not what a deterrent is.

    The question is, how many young women and girls did Ted Bundy not kidnap, rape, torture or kill because he was worried about being executed? I'd say none, but its difficult to say for sure..

    Then, you can ask how many young women and girls were not kidnapped, raped, tortured or killed by other people because of the fear that they would be executed for this, as Ted Bundy was, rather than just being imprisoned for life, or a long time.. this one is harder, but I'd say that people who are prone to kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing young women and girls are not really the kind of people who care about the consequences of their actions, or they think they won't get caught anyway.

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