Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lethal injection might not be so painless

I came across this article a little while back and am just now getting around to writing about it:

"Lethal injection As the Death Penalty's Last Stand."

States with death penalties are running out of the chemicals necessary to perform executions.  Three chemicals are used in the macabre process: sodium thiopental to anesthetize the individual, pancuronium bromide to paralyze their muscles, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.  Currently, sodium thiopental is in low supply and therefore growing more expensive.  Certain states have tried importing the chemical but a federal judge issued a ban on doing so.  That takes an essential chemical out of the process.  The problem now is that sodium thiopental is only available from overseas manufacturers.  Many of these foreign companies do not want their product going towards executions and therefore won't sell them to American prisons.

Complicating the matter is that lethal injection might not be so painless after all.  Post-mortem examinations of tissues of the executed show that given the low levels of anesthesia found, the deceased were likely able to feel just about everything.  The reason for that being that most of them were likely scared and their blood filled with adrenaline.  Also, those performing the procedure have no medical training as healthcare professionals are prohibited from assisting in executions as it would violate ethical guidelines.  So you can imagine being paralyzed, unable to speak, an extreme burning sensation in your chest, your muscles seizing up, finding yourself unable to breathe, and then finally experiencing a heart attack.  Obviously we can never say this for certain as the only ones who would know can now no longer speak.  If true, this execution process would violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

Bear in mind, please, that I am no hippie with flowers in his hair.  I used to...and still do on occasion...listen to punk rock and heavy metal.  I wore combat boots, not sandals.  I was once a big supporter of the death penalty.  There is human garbage in our prisons that if given a gun, I would volunteer to go do the job myself.  That is until I learned that the death penalty really does not serve as a deterrent.  Crime statistics are enough to bear that out.  It also does not save money.  This is because of the lengthy appeals process.  There is also the bone-shaking possibility of executing someone innocent by mistake or at least having strong doubts about it.  I think that Troy Davis should still be fresh in everybody's mind.

Then there is the case of a convict in South Dakota.  I heard about it a long time ago on NPR and sadly I can't seem to find a link to the news story.  As I recall, the man in question was a convicted murderer and rapist.  Lovely human being.  Kind of chump who is just sucking the oxygen away from the rest of us.  Anyway, he was sentenced to life in prison.  He appealed.

Not to get his case overturned.  The son of a bitch actually wanted the death penalty.  He said that he could not bear to spend the rest of his life in a tiny concrete cell, going through what disgusting atrocities happen to people in prison.  Life compared to death seemed worse, so he just wanted to end it all.

So you have to ask yourself: what is the more horrific punishment?  Ten minutes of pain and then basically falling asleep for good or a lifetime in a cell and subject to torture and trauma?  If you're looking for Old Testament-style, wrath of God justice, I think you'd want to go with the latter. As an aside, you might also want to read Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song.  The entire last third of the book will induce a queasy feeling in your gut as you watch them prepare the details of a man's death, asking yourself "are we really going to do this?"  It's just surreal.

Though not as surreal as being paralyzed, unable to move or cry as the last ten minutes of your life end in agony.  And no one but you will ever know.

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1 comment:

  1. And on this same topic...