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Medicine News Politics

Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny 483

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 MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:57PM (#47076415)

    - It's completely painless and humane; one's physiology doesn't notice the lack of oxygen so the person just goes to sleep and then dies. People who were revived from asphyxia like this reported they had no idea until they woke up

    - It's practically free of charge as nitrogen is 80% of our atmosphere; there will never be a shortage of it

    - Because it's universally available and free worldwide it can't be banned or restricted

    - It's much safer (ie nitrogen leaks are harmless assuming the area is ventilated.)

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:19PM (#47076763)

    if the inmate has a tolerance to heroin from long periods of addiction/abuse, it won't be effective.

    That tolerance only occurs when using it continually. It decreases after periods of not using heroin. That's why many addicts OD after being clean for a while. They think they can use as much as the always did. But it can take months to build up that tolerance. Since most, if not all death row inmates are locked up of years, if not decades before they are executed, tolerance to heroine is not going to be an issue.

  • Re:Frosty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:20PM (#47076787)

    So... what's an acceptable error rate? If "only" 10% of the people we kill are innocent, is that OK?
    It is well established that innocent people have been killed and that innocent people who are on death row are regularly found out and released.
    So... how many innocent people are you comfortable in killing?

  • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:44PM (#47077155) Journal
    Volunteers from corrections officers? Yes, let's feed someones desire to kill people.

    If you want to have the death penalty in your state then there should be a random drawing of all adults in the state and the lucky winner is the one who gets to pull the trigger..

  • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:45PM (#47077163) Homepage
    So then instead of dropping a blade across the neck, drop a massive anvil directly on the head. Wile E. Coyote style. I'm being serious.
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:23PM (#47077599) Homepage Journal

    Now, a better question is why are we still killing people when at least 4% of ppl killed are verifiable innocent?

    Because people have unscientifically figured out that threat of death is a damn good deterrent, so we presume we're saving more innocent lives than losing. If true, then the blood of the innocent is on our hands if we don't carry out executions--that is, if we save 5 innocents a year from execution while causing an increase in crime claiming 15 innocents, we are responsible for 10 more deaths.

    From a more scientific standpoint, deterrence is complicated. I keep saying this: in drug-gang-riddled cities, 99% of the perceived threat is death by other criminals. The criminals don't think the man will kill them, even if they know the man will kill them if he catches them. They think they'll either die in the hood or eventually make it out rich; or they don't think about where they're getting, but are still mainly concerned with not dying in a bad drug deal or gang war. State executions don't factor in here.

    In a more peaceful situation, the most important consideration is state executions. People don't have guns, they don't shoot you if you break into their house to murder them, so that's not a worry. You're not a career criminal, and you live in a quiet neighborhood. When the impulse to go murder some son-of-a-bitch comes into your mind, something will hold you back... first personal morals, then an ingrained fear of consequences. The only consequence here is state execution, hence, unlike above, it's a deterrent.

    Now, all that's meaningful, but I'll repeat: we as a society haven't figured this out. We've figured out people fear death, and that fear is a deterrent. We don't realize it's in vain here, and extremely effective there. Instead, we pick a side: death penalty for fear of increased murder, or no death penalty because it doesn't seem to help.

    I guess it's cheaper than dealing with the lawsuits for false imprisonment.

    Not to mention imprisonment is almost as bad as execution. I like to use the strategic scenario of 10 years imprisonment between 25 and 35, both with and without an existing relationship, career, or both. In any scenario, your life is destroyed; this compounds with psychological impacts of imprisonment--you become a broken man, more prone to crime--and so prison is both torture and a risk to society (an innocent man could come out a murderer).

    The real solution is to stop convicting the innocent. Use of the death penalty is fine, but should scale with venue: use it less (up to and including not at all) in areas where it's simply not a deterrent. However, I reject this lethal injection bullshit: a slow, killing numbness looks peaceful, and absolves us of our actions; quarter that motherfucker, with a bolt smashing the back of the skull just before the body is ripped apart. Let the execution horrify us so that we regret what we do; maybe we'll take better care to not condemn a man to death unless we're really fucking sure he did something to warrant it. Make the prosecutor and the jury watch, too. In person.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:27PM (#47077659)

    Hanging is not simple. It takes skill and practice, even with a table of weights and drop lengths. The last hangman with any real practice was Darshan Singh, the sole executioner in Singapore for over 40 years. Before he retired sometime after 2005, he personally killed (and by personally, I mean he built the platform, prepared the noose, placed the noose, and pulled the lever) over 850 people. I read recently that Singapore was thinking about using lethal injection now, so whoever they got to replace Singh probably sucks at his job. Singh had a nearly perfect record. He tried to train new people, but none could handle being an executioner.

    The last French executioner died in 1951. It would be hard to find a modern citizen without psychological problems who could stomach a guillotine.

    If you want a spectacle your best bet is firing squad. Utah used a firing squad in 2010. But even those guys said it made them very uncomfortable and they wouldn't want to do it again.

    That's why lethal injection is so popular. On the surface it seems like a medical procedure--clean and precise. Of course, in reality it's anything but. We should be using pentobarbital, which is what we use to humanely euthanize animals. But we don't, for a bunch of stupid reasons.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:33PM (#47077721)
    I think the idea is that lethal injection is more humane for the witnesses, not the condemned. When lethal injection goes right, the person simply looks like they fall asleep. With gas, they choke for air. With electrocution, they jerk around (or take several tries, catch fire, etc). Firing squad comes with blood. Hanging, if done wrong, can decapitate a person or leave them wriggling around as they asphyxiate-there's also the violent nature of the drop and the body hanging there. As executions get easier for those watching them, it is easier to garner support for executions. I am pro death penalty, but I also feel that if the form of death was more graphic (and made it clear the person was dying and not just falling asleep) it would make people less willing to sentence someone to death and reserve it solely for the most severe of cases. I also think that the attorney that prosecutes an individual, the judge that sentences that individual, and the governor that denies clemency should all be present when the execution takes place. If you can order someone's death, you should have to courage to at least be there when they die.
  • Re:Frosty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:12PM (#47078149)

    Except... Numerous studies have shown that the death penalty has no effect on crime so no consequences for not killing people.
    So... best to join the rest of the civilized countries in the world and abolish the death penalty.

  • Decapitation. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:28PM (#47078303) Homepage Journal

    There were some 'experiments' back in the day with asking the condemned to blink certain codes after their head was removed. Results were inconclusive.

    I still think that most executed prisoners have an easier death, pain wise, than normal people, who generally die of a painful heart attack, long cancer, illness, etc...

    My vote's for nitrogen asphixiation.
    1. No need for injections. Just give them some anti-anxiety medication to swallow.
    2. No need for drugs obtained from secret sources in order to protect supply lines. Any welding supply store should do. Heck, they can purchase a machine to produce the necesssary nitrogen, or even carbon monoxide. I'd suggest a couple canisters just to 'keep it simple'.
    3. Still doesn't mess up the body.
    4. All evidence is that it's a fast, painless, and peaceful death.

  • by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Saturday May 24, 2014 @02:48AM (#47081793)

    Too bloody.

    The hypocrisy is mind boggling. On one hand it should not be too disturbing for the observers, on the other nitrogen is "too easy" as a poster mentioned above [I for one am for the nitrogen; if I ever want to kill myself I'd use it].

    The injection is particularly evil IMO. Just imagine being suddenly awake during surgery and noone notices the monitors [for the sake of argument] - you can't move, you can't scream. I cannot imagine worst than this. No matter how badly it hurts, being able to squirm and scream helps. Total madness!

    The world is in the hands of the worst part of humanity. We build our system this way......

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?