Skip to comments.A Lethal Injection of Reality
Posted on 05/07/2014 12:59:55 PM PDT by Kaslin
Sixteen minutes into last week's botched lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the warden closed the blinds on the windows to the execution chamber and turned off the sound so that witnesses could not see Clayton Lockett writhe or hear him moan. The procedure, designed to resemble a medical treatment -- albeit one with an involuntary patient and a very low probability of recovery -- had begun to look uncomfortably like the cold-blooded killing of a helpless person.
Since Lockett himself was guilty of such a killing, having been convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman during a burglary and watching as his accomplices buried her alive, many Americans -- most, judging from public opinion polls -- would say justice was done. But the eagerness of death penalty advocates to address the shortcomings revealed by Lockett's drawn-out demise suggests that majority support for capital punishment depends on sanitizing the practice to conceal its true nature.
Thomas Szasz, the late critic of coercive psychiatry and the "therapeutic state," argued that "physician-assisted suicide," which gives terminal patients access to lethal drugs by prescription, misleadingly medicalizes a moral issue. The same is true of "physician-assisted execution," with the added complication that most people with medical expertise do not want to assist executions because they view their proper function as saving people's lives rather than killing them.
That reluctance seems to have been the main reason it took so long to kill Lockett, who died of a massive heart attack more than an hour and a half after he was wheeled, strapped to a gurney, into the execution chamber. A technician spent 51 minutes looking for a suitable vein, finally settling on Lockett's groin.
The needle evidently was not inserted properly, because Lockett was still conscious after the first drug sent through the IV tube -- midazolam, a benzodiazepine -- should have knocked him out. It seems he therefore could feel the suffocating effect of the next drug, the paralytic agent vecuronium bromide, and the burning, muscle cramps and chest pain caused by the potassium chloride that was supposed to stop his heart.
Witnesses reported that Lockett twitched, repeatedly tried to sit up and mumbled "oh, man" after he was pronounced unconscious. According to one of Lockett's lawyers, "It looked like torture." He died 43 minutes after the first drug was administered.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin promised to find out exactly what went wrong with Lockett's lethal injection and in the meantime suspended further executions. But why does it matter that Lockett, having committed a crime heinous enough to merit the death penalty -- which involves not just the loss of life but the mental torture of knowing it's coming -- got a taste of the suffering he inflicted on his victim as that sentence was carried out?
It matters because lethal injection, first adopted by Oklahoma in 1977, is supposed to be "the most humane form" of capital punishment, as New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean called it when he signed a bill reinstating the death penalty in 1982. But in this context, "humane" really means "acceptable." The point is not to make condemned murderers comfortable; the point is to make us comfortable.
There are some obvious fixes that would make headline-grabbing fiascos like Lockett's prolonged death less likely. Better training of the technicians who carry out lethal injections would help, and so would simplification of Oklahoma's needlessly complicated protocol, which calls for three drugs when one large dose of a barbiturate such as sodium thiopental would do.
But if preventing unnecessary pain is the goal, it is hard to improve on the firing squad or the guillotine. Such old-fashioned methods were abandoned not because they were too painful, but because they were too bloody.
As Lockett's execution vividly demonstrated, those two concerns are distinct. One has to do with how a condemned prisoner feels as we kill him; the other has to do with how we feel about killing him. Medicalizing executions helps us avoid the latter question.
The Left is calling for an end to all executions until officials can show that no more will be botched.
There isn't the same drama from the Left when an abortion is botched as a licensed clinic and the woman is injured/killed or the baby born alive, crying, and then killed.
Gee...he suffered....excellent. Justice gone right!!
I have had surgery a few times and the Dr. can put you to sleep so gently that you don’t even know it is happening. You wake up in recovery a few hours later and haven’t a clue as to what transpired. What kind of sub-saharan animal practitioners are they using in the prison system these days? Are these the “Obamacare in Training” sawbones or just Jamaican medical School dropouts?
Not nearly as much suffering as the victims. And he got to live a whole lot longer.
Yeah, who cares? Personally I want them to suffer as much as possible!
the problem is, the 8th amendment proscribes cruel and unusual punishment. exection by heart attack certainly qualifies as unusual, and cruel IMHO
Jacob Sullum can suck it. He wasted all this time and energy mourning the loss of a scum-bag killer. What about the sweet victims he killed here?
Besides - Scum-bag screwed up his own death. Botched? If so - it was scumbags fault. Read if you will what scumbag did that morning as he cut his own arm to open a vein, had blood loss and also had to be tazed.
Injection was chosen to protect the delicate sensibilities of the witnesses, not out of empathy for the person being executed.
The firing squad works very well.
I’m in favor of a life sentence.
Life in front of a firing squad.
the are indeed having a hard time finding qualified medical professionals willing to assist with executions. per the article:
“The same is true of “physician-assisted execution,” with the added complication that most people with medical expertise do not want to assist executions because they view their proper function as saving people’s lives rather than killing them.”
“The point is not to make condemned murderers comfortable; the point is to make us comfortable. “
Yep. Politicians have become too removed from death. If they want to kill a con quickly and painlessly, just put them in an airtight room and pump in pure carbon monoxide. They will be unconscious in a few minutes and dead shortly after.
I prefer hanging or a firing squad for convicted murderers. The only reason injection exists is that some elites are a bit squeamish about executing convicted murderers.
politicians may fear that resembles the Nazi method too closely...
Another point worth noting here is that drug manufactures are now withholding the correct medications and drugs necessary to perform a humane execution. They refuse to ship to states like Oklahoma where they are used to execute these scumbags.
So. These bleeding hearts wanna blame somebody for a “botched” execution? They can look in the mirror.
The vein blew. Happens all the time.
some would argue the phrase “humane execution” is an oxymoron...
The bottom line is a simple one. That lethal injection is used solely because of the squeamishness of *viewers*, not with the idea of efficiently executing a murderer.
It is false empathy. And the way around it is simple: use the firing squad instead. There is a lot of logic there:
1) There is no nit-picking that bullets can and do kill; which means minimizing legal arguments and limiting appeals.
2) It is very inexpensive and there is no way any outsider can block an execution by preventing their use, like drug companies refusing to sell it. Bullets are ubiquitous.
3) An important reason: it returns the *purpose* of the execution to be about the murderer, not the witnesses. Yes, there will be minimal blood on the shirt of the condemned after a bullet or two have passed through his heart. However, there won’t be any gushers because the heart will no longer pump the blood.
4) The size of the condemned doesn’t matter. A 90 pound weakling can be just as effectively executed as can a 600 pound pile of lard.
5) The firing squad can be used as an alternative to other means of execution. A state might even pass a law that if by dint of appeals, another form of execution has been made *impractical*, executions will at the discretion of the state be carried out with a firing squad.
This will defeat many time consuming appeals.