"Medical collusion in the death penalty..."

“Medical collusion in the death penalty: an American atrocity”

This is the heading to the editorial in this weeks Lancet (vol. 365, April 16, 2005, p. 1361). The article concerns execution by lethal injection, which it claims is the most common means of carrying out the death penalty.

The first point I wanted to raise concerning the article, is the way of causing death. The Lancet makes the statement that:

Typically, there are three parts to the procedure. First, an anaesthetic is administered, then an injection causing paralysis and finally potassium chloride to bring about cardiac arrest. These steps should ensure that the procedure is not “cruel and unusual”. However research has indicated otherwise.

Toxicological reports suggest that 43% of the samples indicate the anaesthesia given was insufficient and that the victims may well have been awake during the process:

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association would not employ this method on animals.

My second point is on the employment of medical staff to carry out executions. A survey of US physicians showed that 41% would take part in the process, 19% of which would actually deliver the fatal injection. The Lancet is at odds with these findings, wondering how this is compatible with the precept “first, do no harm”. The article closes with:

Obviously, the article was written with a strong bias. However, what I am interested in are others views on whether the execution should be painless or it doesn’t actually matter (or even ‘a bit of pain is good’). Also, is it incongruous for doctors to be involved with executions?

I’ve always wondered why they swab the prisoners arm with alcohol first. I mean, you’re executing him- why worry about infection? :confused: It does seem strange to me that physicians would perform the procedure. Doesn’t their oath stipulate that they will first do no harm?

If capital punishment is to be used, I think the most humane methods should be employed. But “cruel & unusual” is one thing- does the Constitution insist that the method must be painless as well?

I suppose that depends on whether you think inflicting pain (with no benefit to the recipient) is cruel.

Uhm, I for one think that killing a person already sounds kinda cruel and unusual, no matter how it is performed! It’s cruel, because dieing is the worse way you can go, and it is unusual for the victim, since you don’t die that often in your life, do you?

Didn’t the death penalty had to do something with that thingie that the USA didn’t ratified the UN human rights’ charter at first? That should be some blatant clue, that there is something not alright with it…

Well to answer your question I think the gas stuff is alright. For all I care they can keep frying their criminals with electricity (also a quite nasty way to go), like they used to before or still in some states. Or hey, why not humanise it even more and put them out with poison gas through showers? At least that would make it more clear to see what kinda “democracy” the USA really is.

Don’t try to tell these guys you only die once- you’ll get your head bit off. :wink: I guess the distinction is that if the law doesn’t regard death as a cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself, I see no reason why the infliction of it would have to be utterly without pain. And, presumably, it’s not like the recipient didn’t have it coming.

Democracy, btw, is merely a system where the People elect their leaders and therefore have representation. Death penalty or no death penalty, that’s irrelevant to democracy. The slim majority of Americans favor the death penalty for certain crimes.

As for ratifying the UNs human rights charter, it’s far more complicated than you imply. But speaking strictly for myself, I’d like the see the US withdraw from that fascist organization and bulldoze the building into the sea. :wink:

What then is the purpose of the death penalty? Is there an element of retribution in the sentence, beyond the taking of life?

I suppose there’s an element of retribution in it, but not necessaryily in causing pain, per se. If a crime is heinous enough that no lesser penalty will suffice, then the perpetrator is put to death. Presumably the death penalty is supposed to deter other people from doing the same thing.

I have mixed feelings about the death penalty. Certainly innocents have been executed in the US, especially if they had the misfortune to be poor and black. It’s been said it’s better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent. However, without the death penalty many innocent people have likely died in prison, too. In practical terms, the challenge of the death penalty is to insure it’s applied equitably and that only the guilty are executed. Philosophically and morally, of course, the question is whether it’s appropriate for the State to execute its citizens. That comes down to the J/C concept of justice as “an eye for an eye.”

The latter is the tough one, and a call that can be swayed by emotions. Ask the average New Yorker what penalty would suit Bin Laden and I’d wager most would accept nothing less than his death. Ditto the residents of Oklahoma City with regards to Tim McVey. I find in the extreme cases I agree with capital punishment- a mass murdering probably does “deserve it.” But in other cases it’s a lot tougher.

Sorry, but I thought “an eye for an eye” was outdated by “if thyne enemy strikes thou on the right cheek…” or something like that. Well okay, the Bible also says “the Lord says judge not” so trials in general should be considered a sin :smiley: Ah what the hell, you have to sin sometimes, or the Lord would have nothing to forgive us for. How to decide which sins to forgive and which not? Sounds really like a tough business I don’t wish to do…

Sure the New Yorkers wanna see those responsible for 9/11 dead. But what would they say if it comes out that the one responsible isn’t actually Bin Laden but the Israelean Prime Ministre? Not suggesting it is that way, but I don’t think the US would have acted like they did then.

I don’t think it would have mattered in the slightest who did it, to tell you the truth. You fuck with the US, you die. Or at least we give it our best shot.

I agree that the New Testament supercedes the old, or at least where they disagree the New probably takes prececence. But everyone always just uses the parts they like, anyway. :wink: