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Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the terrible-systems-generate-terrible-problems dept.

Medicine 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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Use confiscated drugs (5, Insightful)

jpvlsmv (583001) | about 3 months ago | (#47076313)

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.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2, Insightful)

freeze128 (544774) | about 3 months ago | (#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:Use confiscated drugs (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 3 months ago | (#47076857)

Why not bring back hanging? Simple and effective and used in the US for many years.

If not that, how about the guillotine? I mean, that is quick and supposedly pretty painless, just keep the blade sharp.

Some times the SIMPLE old fashioned, tried and true methods are the best.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2)

sethradio (2603921) | about 3 months ago | (#47076931)

If not that, how about the guillotine?

Heads usually stay alive for a few seconds after decapitation because they have not run out of blood.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076707)

Vets can use massive overdoses of intravenous barbituates to put down animals.
And nitrogen asphyxiation is also relatively straightforward compared to cyanide.

While I'm not a proponent of capital punishment at all given the quantity of exonerations, either of these are relatively humane methods.

Better still: let's learn to put people convicted of heinous crimes in deep isolation cells (isolated to the extent that they can't tap on walls or shout through toilets or air vents to communicate, as is the case in current prisons) and deprive them of all contact - no tv, no internet, no magazines, no books, no human contact at all, with heavy penalties for guards who violate these roles - and leave them there. If someone wants to fight for their exoneration, the prison can be exonerated; if not, they will be fed, they'll have a toilet and a bed, and they're safely stored where they can't do further damage. Use gas or other things to render them unconscious if they need haircuts or toenail clipping or medical care, so as to preserve the isolation.

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

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076793)

You do know that that sort of isolation invariably leads to insanity right? I'm not really sure how "roll-back-able" insanity is.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076957)

I'd guess he knows precisely how hideously inhumane that would be, and that's why he's so keen on it.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2)

sethradio (2603921) | about 3 months ago | (#47076945)

It really is cruel and unusual punishment. Unconstitutional.

Human's a very good at not dying (2, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47076435)

...or your basic "Exit Bag" system, with a colorant or odorant to safeguard against the administering staff being harmed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Use confiscated drugs (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47076475)

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.

Not fast enough. Throw in a little carbon monoxide.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076525)

Thats exactly the problem, can't let them have a high on their way out!

If they'd get past this everyone would just be using nitrogen gas chambers, no pain, no panic, doesn't need cooperation to go well, no gore when watching, safe in event of a leak, easy to supply -- Theres a reason we use it on animals, but can't let them criminals have that sense of euphoria on the way out!

Re:Use confiscated drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076555)

Heroin is a no-go because it has to be injected. As the Oklahoma execution showed, if the inmate has damaged or otherwise unusual blood vessels, drugs injected into the system will not work. Also, if the inmate has a tolerance to heroin from long periods of addiction/abuse, it won't be effective.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 3 months ago | (#47076649)

Just inject it directly into the heart. Like those adrenaline syringes.
If they have a heart problem and it explodes, then success! Either way, it works.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077029)

Read up on that Oklahoma execution. That's pretty much what happened, except it was caused by vein collapse from an existing condition. The vein they injected into collapsed, raised his blood pressure, and it caused him to have a stroke and die from it. Quite painful, I imagine.

The idea is for the drug to kill the one being executed, not for its side effects to cause a painful and traumatic death.

Of course, they always completely ignore the simplest and fastest lethal "injection": a metal slug to the back of the head. One for execution. A second to make sure the job is done.

If you're just such a mealy-mouthed hippie eurotwit anti-death-penalty fanatic that you just can't imagine the executioner not having nightmares about his job, there are several ways to fix that, too. 1) Don't use the same guy every time. 2) Only take volunteers from within the corrections officer pool, no assignments, no outsiders. 3) Don't use bullets, use a piston like a slaughtering house does. Rig it with a computerized firing mechanism and a random delay. Flip the switch and wait. No one will be directly responsible for the execution, only the setup and the cleanup. A fast-acting, high-power actuator can easily drive a piston through the skull and destroy brain tissue. Use a 2- or 3-piston simultaneous-trigger mechanism to make sure there's enough tissue trauma to do the job.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076699)

Then just give them more. There's a lethal dose of heroin for everyone.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (5, Funny)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about 3 months ago | (#47076817)

Then just give them more. There's a lethal dose of heroin for everyone.

With the possible exception of Keith Richards.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (3, Interesting)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#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:Use confiscated drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076675)

A) because its an illegal drug, which means lots of legal paperwork to make it legal

B) The people advocating the death penalty loudest are in the an eye for an eye crowd, ODing on a trip is not cruel enough, they want revenge. The quick and simple method already existed ages ago and was only later replaced with flawed "clean" approaches (electric chair by now requires quarter an hour of on/off since some people survived several electrocutions - must be a pleasant way to die).

  If you want death penalty "Off with the head" is the only way guaranteed to kill quickly and with no chance of the convict getting out his assigned body bag. Sadly it was not clean enough (pleasant to look at) for the crowd.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (2)

ultranova (717540) | about 3 months ago | (#47076681)

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.

Because the association with drugs might serve to bring the legitimacy of the institution of death penalty into question. Like all institutions, it too is primarily concerned with its own continuation, and does whatever it takes to ensure a steady stream of victims. Not out of any malice, mind you, but simply because it can't exist otherwise.

And it's not like it takes heroin to kill people painlessly. Nitrogen [csb.gov] is a major industrual hazard precisely because it's a stealthy, quick killer. But it's too quick - there's no complex ritual involved, which would again threaten to delegitimaze the institution by showing it as what it is: a state murdering its own citizens.

tl;dr you can't expect rational behaviour from a fundamentally irrational institution.

Re:Use confiscated drugs (4, Insightful)

preaction (1526109) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Frosty (5, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 months ago | (#47076315)

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 (2, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47076413)

Or maybe they should simply not rape and murder that 9 year old girl.

Re:Frosty (4, Informative)

danlip (737336) | about 3 months ago | (#47076499)

You assume all the people put to death are actually guilty of the crime. This is certainly not true. Also, as the GP implied, plenty of people who are guilty of the crime don't get put to death. When was the last time you heard of a wealthy well-connected person sentenced to death?

Re:Frosty (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#47076655)

You assume all the people put to death are actually guilty of the crime.

By far the vast majority *are* guilty. Most of the cases of innocent people on death row came into being before the widespread modern use of DNA, and modern (non-fiction) "CSI" ...

Re:Frosty (2, Interesting)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#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?

Re:Frosty (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Frosty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076985)

It is around 7% in my state. That we know of.

Re:Frosty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077035)

Whether the vast majority are guilty is irrelevant, because all it takes is ONE wrongful execution to turn the savior (government) into the murderer -- in which case the savior is invalidated on the spot. And statistics prove that it is very likely that government has ALREADY executed (murdered) an innocent man, probably several. Only the victims know the truth of course. Lucky you -- your entire viewpoint is founded on the fact that you don't and can't know.

The entire death penalty issue boils down to two simple questions: (1) is death permanent, and (2) is government capable of making mistakes. Ponder that for the two seconds it should take any rational human being, because the answer is more than obvious -- it's nothing less than common sense.

Lastly, you know damn well that if you were an innocent man on death row, your viewpoint on this would do a 180 quicker than you can shit your pants. Therefore, to peddle the "vast majority" argument is merely to admit your naivety (or arrogance -- take your pick).

Re:Frosty (0, Flamebait)

larry bagina (561269) | about 3 months ago | (#47076711)

Like John F. Kennedy Jr? Fact: he was killed by a drone strike after George Bush secretly approved his targeted murder. Of course you won't hear about it because it was secret and there was no trial. Follow the power - John John was planning on running for the Senate in New York (after Daniel Moynihan retired). After he died, Hillary Clinton was elected instead. Of course, it turns out they fucked themselves over. Hillary was supposed to be elected President in 2008 but that obviously didn't happen. If Hillary had waited and run for Senate in Illinois (the backup plan), there wouldn't have been a Senator Obama and she would have been elected President in 2008.

Re:Frosty (0)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47076873)

wow... where can I buy on of your tin foil hats?

Re:Frosty (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Frosty (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#47076701)

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

Define "not-insignificant number"? Of course one is too many. However, to suggest that the number is "large" is misleading. Probably not even a few percent, maybe less than 1 percent. Still too many, but suggesting huge numbers does your argument no favors.

Re:Frosty (5, Informative)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 3 months ago | (#47076851)

According to this study [theguardian.com] the rate is about 4.1%. The rate of people currently being found innocent after being sentenced to death is 1.6%.

Re:Frosty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076551)

You leave Glenn Beck alone! There's no proof he did anything in 1990, in spite of him not coming out and denying it!

Why won't he deny it though?

Re:Frosty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076639)

Because we all know that police never lie, never plant evidence, never use torture to extract a confession, never bribe or coerce witnesses and never conceal or destroy exonerating evidence.

Re:Frosty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077021)

I suppose I should no longer be amazed at the lack of enlightenment on this forum.

* People who do that kind of thing almost always have severe mental illness that was not properly diagnosed and treated. If you want to make a capital offense from being born into bad genes and/or development, then you are missing much of your humanity

* FREE WILL does not exist.

* Ask yourself why these kinds of crimes are much less prevalent in countries with comprehensive health care

* A good fraction of capital cases are "grey area," where a crime was committed, but "trigger man" and "accessory" might not really be known.

* Anything that comes out of a Texas criminal court can be assumed to fall into the bin labeled "kill them all and let sort them out"

Re:Frosty (3, Insightful)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 3 months ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076735)

IAAL (several hundred FL criminal defense cases including felony jury trials, etc)

It has almost nothing to do with the quality of lawyering involved. A significant portion of criminal defense cases have essentially pre-ordained outcomes due to the weight of evidence against the accused.

Lawyers are really only useful in the few close cases- ie, ones where evidence supporting reasonable doubt can be found. A lot of the big cases in the media (OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, Zimmerman) were actually extremely weak cases that were brought mainly because of media attention. It's easy for a defense attorney to look awesome when the state has brought a horribly weak case against your client.

Conversely, in the more typical case, there's not much for a defense attorney to do when 10 witnesses and 6 different security cameras all say your client did the exact same thing. You're essentially just fighting for a decent plea so the judge doesn't get the discretion to send your client to prison forever after he sits through a trial listening to what your client did. And in cases involving raping and murdering babies, there's not going to be a plea offer unless it's a weak case.

Shoot them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076329)

Bullets are cheaper than drugs and a cop firing a gun is cheaper than a doctor injecting drugs.

What is wrong the the Soviet & China style (1)

charles05663 (675485) | about 3 months ago | (#47076333)

The constitution say no cruel and unusual punishment. The Soviets and Chinese have executed 10's of millions of people with a bullet to the head. It is quick, therefore not cruel and not unusual for it has been used millions of times.

Re:What is wrong the the Soviet & China style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076455)

"unusual punishment" is not about the relative popularity of a specific punishment method (even if its popular in such humane countries as China).

Re:What is wrong the the Soviet & China style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076723)

Actual "unusual" does mean "not customary." A bullet in the head would, by world standards, not be unusual. Whether it is cruel or not is a matter for debate and not something I feel qualified to comment on, but I suspect not.

Re:What is wrong the the Soviet & China style (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 months ago | (#47076509)

Too messy. The pro-capital-punishment side has been losing steam for about the last 20 years. Desanitizing the process would likely accelerate that and lead to its abolition.

Re:What is wrong the the Soviet & China style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076887)

>Desanitizing the process would likely accelerate that and lead to its abolition.

Which would be great. It would be awesome if we could get the ignorant conservatives on-board with stopping our government from killing people, but for some reason their desire to harm people outweighs their distrust of government.

Nitrogen asphyxiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076377)

I don't understand why nitrogen asphyxiation hasn't been used before in capital punishment. It's a simple procedure with a very abundant resource and is more "humane" as far as killing goes than other used methods. Just like going into a deep sleep, forever.

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47076443)

Ive always wondered the same thing. If I had to take a guess id say the reason we dont use gas (eventhough nitrogen would be the most humane way to go if you ask me) has to do with the Holocaust. Im sure people would bitch and moan that the gas chambers are a throwback to nazi germany and therefore cant be used. I have no proof of this, but its the only reasonable(not really though) argument I can think of

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076561)

Except we already used cyanide gas chambers which were much more expensive, difficult to maintain and operate and dangerous for the operators and spectators.

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation (1)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 3 months ago | (#47076909)

I've seen a couple of shows about the death penalty and you always see a couple of people against using things such as Nitrogen or Carbon Monoxide because the death is too good for the offender. Capital punishment is about revenge for them and the messier the better.

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47076913)

Hear hear. We know the effects of nitrogen asphyxiation from those who have been pulled to safety before suffering permanent damage - you pass out in under a minute, probably without ever realizing there's a problem, and die a few minutes later. You don't even need a gas chamber, an anesthesia mask and a cut-rate tank of nitrogen get the job done fine.

My only theory as to why it's not used is that it's not violent enough. After all one of the major purposes of a criminal justice system is to slake the victims' desire for revenge well enough that they usually won't take the law into their own hands. Once you admit that, then it makes more sense that we don't use a cheap, easy, safe, and effective method of execution - victims get no closure watching someone fall asleep peacefully in mid-sentence.

save money (0)

fakeid (242403) | about 3 months ago | (#47076385)

Or we could save a ton of money AND save the trouble of finding the right drug cocktail by eliminating the death penalty. It's not like it's a deterrent to crime.

Re:save money (1)

cogeek (2425448) | about 3 months ago | (#47076731)

It's a sure fired way to make sure they don't become repeat offenders.

Re:save money (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 3 months ago | (#47076807)

fire.

Stupid question (1)

spitzak (4019) | about 3 months ago | (#47076387)

Why not use the gas we euthanize dogs and cats with?

PS: I'm probably against the death penalty but it just seems an easy method to remove this objection to it, and use something that is not going to be hard to supply. And I'm sure some death-penalty supporters are also much more concerned with cat and dogs suffering so this is probably pretty humane.

Re:Stupid question (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 months ago | (#47076567)

Because if you use those drugs for executions, the (European) manufacturers of them then get prohibited from selling them to the USA and you no longer have them for medical uses.

Re:Stupid question (1)

danlip (737336) | about 3 months ago | (#47076575)

Dogs and cats are usually put down with intravenous injections (so says wikipedia).

Re:Stupid question (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 3 months ago | (#47076591)

As someone who recently had to put my cat to sleep because of cancer, the vet told me they were using an overdose of barbiturates, not gas.

I felt my best bud of 12 years go limp in my hands within a second or two of the injection and he was gone a second or two later.

Maybe my vet was different, but I've known other vets who do the same.

Re:Stupid question (4, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#47076825)

Phenobarbitol (barbiturate) is what they use to kill people. The only manufacturer is in Europe and refuses to sell it to the US to kill people. Hence, the secrecy, mad scramble and botched executions.

Bring back the firing squad (1)

bazmail (764941) | about 3 months ago | (#47076389)

Cheap, effective, quick ("humane"), and we don't need to rely on other nations to produce the materials.

Re:Bring back the firing squad (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#47076721)

Cheap, effective, quick ("humane"), and we don't need to rely on other nations to produce the materials.

Too messy. Someone has to clean that up...

One word. (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | about 3 months ago | (#47076391)

Guillotine. The most humane method humanity ever invented.

Lots of alternatives.. (3, Informative)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#47076395)

Guillotine, Hanging, Firing Squad and the Electric Chair.

You could also take standard drugs like Sodium Thiopental that are used in countries that allow euthanasia [wikipedia.org]

Sodium thiopental is used intravenously for the purposes of euthanasia. In both Belgium and the Netherlands, where active euthanasia is allowed by law, the standard protocol recommends sodium thiopental as the ideal agent to induce coma, followed by pancuronium bromide.

Intravenous administration is the most reliable and rapid way to accomplish euthanasia. A coma is first induced by intravenous administration of 20 mg/kg thiopental sodium (Nesdonal) in a small volume (10 ml physiological saline). Then, a triple dose of a non-depolarizing skeletal muscle relaxant is given, such as 20 mg pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) or 20 mg vecuronium bromide (Norcuron). The muscle relaxant should be given intravenously to ensure optimal availability but pancuronium bromide may be administered intramuscular at an increased dosage level of 40 mg.

It's also cheap too. [igenericdrugs.com]

Lots of alternatives.. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076469)

Export of Sodium Thiopental and similar drugs to countries that allow executions are banned throughout the EU. That's why the USA is now looking for shitty homegrown replacements.

Re:Lots of alternatives.. (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 3 months ago | (#47076833)

The FDA won't allow it on the market because the drug will be shown to have harmful side effects at its recommended dosage. Namely, death.

Re:Lots of alternatives.. (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 3 months ago | (#47076549)

Guillotine, Hanging, Firing Squad and the Electric Chair.

While it may be possible to build a reliable and humane electric chair, the history of actual electric chair executions is not that a humane pain-free execution process.

Re:Lots of alternatives.. (2)

danlip (737336) | about 3 months ago | (#47076671)

Except we can't get sodium thiopental in the US. We don't make it, and the EU won't sell it to us because we use it for executions.

Re:Lots of alternatives.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076839)

So this is found only in deposits that have to be mined that you can't obtain without a treaty like in Civ III with saltpeter?

Re:Lots of alternatives.. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#47076955)

Two words.. Canadian Pharmacy.. Naw, the whole EU ban on it and the only US company, Hospira, stopped in 2011 means that the easy way isn't so easy. I smell a commercial opportunity here. Would it be unethical to try and use kickstarter for seed funding? ;-)

We would like to ramp up production of Sodium Thiopental to develop the onshore capability for killing our prisoners on death row. This means we'll be manufacturing it here in the good old USA and hiring American workers (except for the Janitorial staff). For this we're targeting
an initial funding of $20 million to set up the lab and limited production facilities.

I could sell it to the states and make a fortune!

I'll choose ... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 3 months ago | (#47076397)

... Snu-snu.

Nitrogen asphyxiation, if you must execute (5, Interesting)

MrKevvy (85565) | about 3 months ago | (#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.)

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation, if you must execute (1)

0x537461746943 (781157) | about 3 months ago | (#47076577)

I wonder if the reason simple ideas are not used is because the states don't have the expertise to say what to use so they have to hire some third party to come up with a way to do it. The company coming up with the idea feels they need to come up with a complex mixture to use to justify the money they were paid to come up with the idea or maybe they have contacts with a chemical company that they would recommend :). I am sure it has something to do with money somewhere... someone wanting to make some.

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation, if you must execute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076783)

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

That's a very strange thing to say.

Governments ban plants, and words, and pictures all the time.

Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation, if you must execute (1)

MrKevvy (85565) | about 3 months ago | (#47077013)

I meant by third parties... this all started because the EU companies that produce the former lethal injection cocktail were banned under the EU constitution from selling pharma for executions. Rather difficult to cut off the supply of nitrogen like this!

Nitrogen (2)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 3 months ago | (#47076417)

Give them a small mouth/nose mask attached to a nitrogen supply. Quick, painless, and you don't have blood everywhere.

Car/engine running idle in an enclosed space... (1)

0x537461746943 (781157) | about 3 months ago | (#47076447)

I have heard from articles that the person just goes to sleep. Why do they rely on some hard to obtain or complicated mixture when it seems like there are very cheap and not very uncomfortable ways to do such a thing?

Re:Car/engine running idle in an enclosed space... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 3 months ago | (#47076605)

I don't think that suicide by car exhaust is effective these days. Modern cars don't emit the amount of carbon monoxide that older cars did.

However, I have wondered why execution by carbon monoxide poisoning isn't used. Perhaps there are too many people who would be offended by the concept of a gas chamber?

Re:Car/engine running idle in an enclosed space... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076765)

California used the gas chamber as recently as 20-odd years ago and no one seemed to object on "Oh no, it's like the Holocaust" grounds.

Re:Car/engine running idle in an enclosed space... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#47076785)

However, I have wondered why execution by carbon monoxide poisoning isn't used. Perhaps there are too many people who would be offended by the concept of a gas chamber?

I think you've hit on something here. People don't want a "mess", so fireing squads and the electric chair and hanging (the head might pop off) are out, execute if you must, but let's not "offend" our senses...

The obvious alternative: Stop murdering people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076517)

When you kill a person who poses no present danger to anybody, without their consent, it is murder, plain and simple. The death penalty is nothing but state-sanctioned revenge killings. The whole idea of "humanely" murdering somebody is absolutely laughable. The death penalty is a travesty, and a nation that wants to call itself civilized should make it a priority to get rid of it.

Surprised they haven't made in a profit center (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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.

as george carlin once said (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47077003)

even better put it up on pay per view and balance the budget!

Only by idiots. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47076543)

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.

Absolutely Absurd! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076607)

We, they, are sadists. Nothing more. If it was an eye for an eye, that would be different. But it is not. That we use means that, as documented again and again medically, inflict suffering, shows just how disgusting the US has become when it comes to capital punishment.

We relish in death. The tradition of a bygone eras that, while fun on cinema, have no place in modern time. Leave 'The Old West', 'The Electric Chair', 'The Firing Squad', 'The Guillotine', 'The Stake', 'The Coliseum', where they belong: In the annals of history, and on the silver screen. Society is clinging to a ghost that is squeezing whatever morality and ethics this country once had, out. I'd feel absolutely disgusted with it all, but I have nothing left to give on the matter.

This is not that hard (1)

Zed Pobre (160035) | about 3 months ago | (#47076613)

I have never understood why killing someone cleanly is so complicated to get right in the modern era. The French solved this problem back in 1792, and it worked fairly well up until they finally decided that having the government kill people was inherently problematic. The USA being a country that loves its guns so much, it's almost incomprehensible that there hasn't been a freaking research paper on the optimal angle for a shotgun under the chin. We have all manner of chemical designed to render someone unconscious or completely insensible or incapable of feeling pain, and if your goal is to kill someone you don't need to worry about its long-term side effects. The fabled chloroform rag is half-mythical, but even that was actually used medically at one point for anasthesia and we only stopped because we... accidentally killed people. Oh no! Whatever will we do if we accidentally kill the person we're trying to execute before we administer the drug that's guaranteed to kill?

We might not even need to pay for any new drugs. We probably have enough confiscated heroin by this point to happily overdose everyone on death row, and going to sleep and forgetting to breathe is about as peaceful as you can get. It's even a poetic punishment for drug crimes that killed someone.

There are a lot of arguments about whether we ought to be having executions at all, and I'm not going to get into those here, but I can't really come up with any reason why we have to risk torturing someone to death other than someone wanting the chance of 'accidentally' torturing someone to death.

Why is it so hard? (1)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47076615)

It seems like it should be easy with either one drug or two at most.

There seems to be dozens of drugs used for anesthesia that should work for a single drug. When I've had surgery it seems like "count backwards from 10" gets me to about 8.5 before I'm out. And at that point they could just inject enough after that to kill you.

Even if they had to use two drugs, again there's plenty that would make you unconscious and they could inject nasty stuff to finish you off.

Re:Why is it so hard? (2)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 months ago | (#47076773)

Yes, but if you use those for executions, the European companies that make them won't be allowed to sell them to the USA, period, so you won't have them for surgeries either.

I dont understand (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 3 months ago | (#47076641)

Disclaimer: Im against the death penalty.

But I don't understand why its so hard to kill someone. Making someone unconscious for major surgery seems to be a solved problem. Once someone is unconscious, and paralysed, how hard is it to kill them?

If you are unconscious, no oxygen will kill you in a few minutes without pain. Even if you are concious, from what I understand its CO2 in the lungs that causes pain.. just filling a room with helium should probably kill you without you feeling much pain in a few minutes.

Why these injections are taking 20+ minutes to kill people who are in pain, I don't understand.

Re:I dont understand (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 months ago | (#47076867)

Making someone unconscious for major surgery seems to be a solved problem.

Using the drugs (sodium thiopental, propofol, etc.) used for that purpose for killing people without getting said drugs embargoed is an unsolved problem.

Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076657)

Nitrogen gas is the most humane way of dispatching these criminals.

keep it simple. (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 3 months ago | (#47076687)

Greater complexity = much greater chance to screw up.
  I don't get why execution has been made this complex.
We need to do away with the whole special death row areas, telling victims months ahead when they are goona get executed, the green mile walk, and multiple different hard-to-get injections conducted in stages by multiple different people.
Whats wrong with an unexpected trip to a disguised room and a quick bullet (or 6 to be sure) to the head? Ideally when the victim isn't even slightly expecting it.
Simple and immediate. I therefore think it would be ultimately much more humane too.

Stop messing around (5, Insightful)

OSULugan (3529543) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Bring back the guillotine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076745)

Make it much bigger and sharper than the olden days. It's hard to botch an effective way of cutting off someone's head. Quick and painless. Donate the organs.

Sickening (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 3 months ago | (#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:Sickening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077027)

If it is illegal to kill, it should be for the state as well. Anything else is hypocritical. Period.

That's not a valid point at all. It's also illegal to kidnap and imprison someone, but not so for the state. Should state-run prisons be entirely abandoned?

Gas chamber with nitrogen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47076813)

Look, there's an easy, dignified way to execute condemned prisoners: build a room with bulletproof glass (so they can't smash or damage it) that's equipped with a HVAC system capable of quietly flooding the room with pure nitrogen (and later, oxygen). Put a comfy recliner in the middle. In fact, have a few in different styles (including rocking chairs and an Aeron chair), and let the prisoner pick one... he'll feel empowered, and will probably be more cooperative on execution day.

Nitrogen asphyxiation is, hands down, the most efficient and humane way you can kill someone. No sense of suffocation or air hunger, no green foamy vomit to upset the witnesses, and maybe a second between "Hey, I think I'm starting to feel drow" and "{...NO CARRIER...}".

Best of all, nitrogen is the most abundant gas on earth. It's cheap, readily-available, and has no lingering toxicity. Re-oxygenate the chamber, and it's 100% safe for the clean up crew.

I believe they could even get around the "Unusual" objection by offering the condemned prisoner a choice between it and something less "unusual", like "firing squad" or "electric chair". After a few dozen or hundred executions, it'll cease to be "unusual", and they can eliminate the other methods since at that point they'd mainly just serve to allow the most deranged prisoners to go out with a big, public bang.

Strictly speaking, there's not even much real need to restrain them once they're locked in the chamber, besides avoiding the possibility that they might decide to strip nude and/or masturbate in front of the witnesses as a final act of defiance (something that sadly, would be almost guaranteed to happen at least occasionally).

Re:Gas chamber with nitrogen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077031)

I've heard that the real reason they don't do that is because it actually feels good to die that way, and the bible-thumper types can't stand the idea of a prisoner enjoying his execution.

I don't understand what is so difficult about it (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 3 months ago | (#47076999)

I'll set aside, for a moment, that capital punishment is barbaric and should not exist in a society that wishes to call itself free and humane.

But what is so difficult about performing an execution properly without subjecting the executee to unconscionable suffering? If an anesthesiologist can induce a patient into a temporary coma with perfect precision, so that the patient will feel no pain and be without consciousness during a surgical procedure, why the hell can't a prisoner be put into exactly the same state and *then* given a lethal dose of the death cocktail?

Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47077011)

Just banish the death penalty.

Saves words, saves grief, saves huge amounts of money !

But it won't happen, because otherwise people PRO and CON
would focus on other things like how shitty their governments are.

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