American Know-How Fails

Yesterday, the state of Missouri executed Herbert Smulls, who had been convicted of a 1991 murder, despite a number of appeals and temporary stays. Smulls's lawyers had noted that the state refused to disclose where they got the pentobarbital they were going to use for the lethal injection, and apparently if the drug is not mixed properly it can create extreme pain. As you may know, in the last couple of years, pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs used to perform lethal injections have decided to suspend their manufacture, leading some states scrambling for ingredients they need to send condemned prisoners to the great beyond. Some have even considered antiquated execution techniques; there are bills in Missouri and Wyoming to bring back firing squads, and one Virginia lawmaker wants to make the electric chair an option again.

Which leads me to ask this. It's the 21st century. We can build skyscrapers a kilometer high. We can send ships to Mars. We can put a powerful computer in the pockets of billions of people. Are you telling me that with all our technology, all our engineering knowledge, and all our good old-fashioned American ingenuity, we can't come up with a quick, effective, and painless way to kill a man?

Before we go any farther, let me make clear that I'm an opponent of death penalty, for all the reasons you might expect. Not only is there no convincing evidence that it deters crime, mistakes in death penalty cases (of which there are plenty) are impossible to reverse. There are two purposes of criminal punishments: to deter crime, and to remove criminals from society so they can't victimize more people. The death penalty does neither over and above life in prison.

Beyond these practical considerations is a moral one: the death penalty is a vestige of a more barbarous time, which is why most countries have done away with it, and why we should too. But if we're going to do it, surely we can devise a method that doesn't have all the uncertainty that lethal injection has brought.

Frankly, I've always thought that the guillotine is the most humane of execution methods, since it's so quick. But it's not exactly clean, what with all the blood and the matter of the severed head to deal with. So we're messing around with drug cocktails we don't really understand? Come on. This can't be that hard a problem to solve.

Comments

I'm also opposed to the death penalty, and frankly the guillotine seems like a far more terrifying way to be put to death than lethal injection.

I don't understand how it is that we can anesthetize people so that they are unconscious and cannot feel any pain during major surgery, but we cannot then somehow end their lives painlessly.

There is a simple, inexpensive, and painless method for execution: Nitrogen asphyxiation. You place the condemned person in a room and flood it with nitrogen gas. Since nitrogen already makes up 3/4ths of our atmosphere, the body doesn't consider it to be anything harmful. Because there is no oxygen in the room the brain is starved of oxygen and within a matter of minutes the subject loses concioussness and dies. There are no medical considerations, so you don't have to have doctors violate their Hippocratic Oath. There is no need for expensive specialized drugs, so you don't have to have pharmaceutical companies produce drugs which only serve to kill. There is no pain or discomfort to the condemned.

Unfortunately, there are those that see the suffering of the condemned as irrelevant to the discussion and that in fact eliminating that suffering somehow reduces the severity of the death penalty. If the purpose of the death penalty is to remove an extreme transgressor from society then it ought to be done in such a way as to maintain the dignity of the state so there can be no charge of sadistic intent or vengeance.

Wish I'd read this before I posted my first comment. An added benefit, if it can be called that, is that due to nitrogen narcosis, the condemned would experience euphoria.

The death penalty is barbarism. But so is the act of murder. It is true that there are cases of the wrong person being put on trial (usually a misidentified person of African descent, taking the hit for the white people who actually did the deed,); but there is grace in knowing that in the majority of people who receive capitol punishment, they will not spend their eternity in Hell according to the Teachings of at least one religion. They paid the ultimate price in this life. However, methinks that life in prison is more humane. Should fault be found in the deliberations process and a conviction can be overturned, then the person(s) incarcerated should be compensated monetarily for the wrongs done to them by the state in which theyconvicted. A recent example of this is the overturning of a case called "The Beatrice [Nebr] Six" where six people had been held falsely for 25 years, based on questionable evidence presented by a corrupt law enforcement agency and county attorney. DNA evidence showed that none of the convicted people involved were at the scene of the crime. Now they are out of jail, but their useful life was expended in jail.The State of Nebraska is being sued because it has refused to pay compensation to the six, The person who was known to be the killer is long dead. Nebraska has the death penalty; but due to the heroic work of one state senator, (who is best known, nationally, for his lawsuit against God) there has only been one person this century, who has actually been put to death. Because of the corruption that exists in the criminal "justice" system, it is best that the death penalty be purged from the books.

I'm also an opponent of the death penalty, both because it is not a deterrent, and because it costs taxpayers more money to put someone to death than it does to keep them alive for a lifetime. As far as I can tell, that leaves only one reason for it: state sponsored revenge. Sorry, not what I want my tax dollars going towards.

We could shoot them with Hell Fire missiles. that probably doesn't hurt too much if it exploded right in front of you.

Airtight cells. Every night, a sedative gas is introduced into the cells to make the inmates sleep. Each morning the cells are vented. On one night, cyanide gas is released into the condemned man's cell after a larger dose of sedative. The concentration is allowed to stay in place overnight and the cell is vented in the morning as usual.

That said. I am strongly opposed to capital punishment. It just seems to me that this solution is humane. It's not perfect, so any comments would be appreciated. Again - I am against this thing. But it should not be a spectacle.

I'll add this. When I was a child I had my tonsils removed. They used a rubber mask to introduce ether. I was told to relax and breathe. Within moments I was gone, and awoke - in what seemed like a instant - in the recovery room.

So why not using a sedative to introduce deep sleep before the needles are even inserted?

This. People go under for surgeries all the time. Clearly, this works. Once under, it doesn't really matter how the convict is killed, though overdose of the general anaesthesia seems obvious, if possible, or denial of oxygen.

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