ALL TOPICS. ALL SIDES. ONE PLACE.

The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

The Modern Era’s “Humane” Executions

W. Scott Cole

Posted on January 10, 2019 00:59

2 users

WARNING: The following is not for the faint of heart. I have always written about problems within the criminal justice system, suggested possible solutions, and reported the advances made in reforming the system. Sometimes the worst of the system must be talked about in order for meaningful advances to be made. This is one of those times. This is the biggest shame of the criminal justice system in the United States.

Lethal injection is the choice of execution in the United States and has been for decades. Until recently, it was accomplished with a three-drug cocktail of sodium thiopental to induce unconsciousness, followed by a second drug that caused paralysis, then a third drug that stopped the heart.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, sodium thiopental became unavailable and states started using other drugs for their lethal cocktails. Foremost among what became the drugs of choice was midazolam as a replacement for sodium thiopental, followed by pancuronium bromide, marketed under the name Pavulon, to paralyze the muscles, followed by an injection of potassium chloride.

In July 2018, a first of its kind trial was held in Tennessee contesting the use of midazolam. It was reported in detail by The Intercept. Among the items brought to light was the fact that, at least in Tennessee, Pavulon has been outlawed as an anesthetic for the euthanasia of pets, because, as the judge noted, its only purpose is to give “a false impression of serenity to viewers. Thus it was thought to make punishment by death more palatable.” If the anesthetic fails to work, she said, Pavulon does no more than hide the “excruciatingly painful ordeal of death by lethal injection” by paralyzing the muscles.

The problem with midazolam, according to many experts, is that it doesn’t put a person into a deep enough level of unconsciousness to prevent the pain from being felt. There was a testimony of an execution in Arizona in 2014 using midazolam. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die. His lawyer counted over 640 times that he gasped for breath in those two hours.

In Arkansas, an attorney testified that, after the drugs started flowing, his client’s head started moving back and forth. Even with the audio turned off, that was followed by choking, coughing, and heaving so loud it could be heard through the wall, then finally by convulsions.

The attorney for Gary Otte in Ohio in 2017, said that he struggled violently on the gurney and showed every sign that he was conscious, crying and clenching his hands, and that his stomach was heaving.

According to the experts, in order to be injected, midazolam is diluted with hydrochloric acid, which destroys the delicate tissue in the lungs, causing them to be filled with liquid, making a person feel that he is drowning. The final drug, potassium chloride, is extremely painful going in. When given in a medical treatment, it has to be diluted severely and then injected slowly. It is neither diluted nor injected slowly in an execution.

The result, said Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor in dissent of a capital punishment case, is “the chemical equivalent of being burned alive”.

Some states are moving away from midazolam, but in the light of expert testimony, especially since even in recent times it has been proven that innocent men have been executed, isn’t it time to move away from the application of the death penalty entirely?

W. Scott Cole

Posted on January 10, 2019 00:59

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: WBRZ

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Arkansas Supreme Court is barring a judge who blocked the state's multiple executions plan from taking...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest